Fabletown and Beyond
Conventions | The Orange County Register previews WonderCon, which returns this weekend to Anaheim, California, and selects some of the highlights from the programming schedule, including panels dedicated to “Batman: The Zero Year,” The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, and Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. [Orange County Register]
Conventions | The Detroit News runs down the upcoming slate of Michigan conventions dedicated to comics, anime, fantasy/sci-fi, horror and collectibles, ranging from Shuto Con to Kids Read Comics! to Detroit FanFare. [The Detroit News]
At least a couple of times over the course of the weekend, Bill Willingham talked about his goal for the Fabletown and Beyond convention he hosted in Rochester, Minnesota. He may not have actually used the term “bucket list,” but that’s essentially what the show seems to have been for him: an opportunity to throw the kind of comics convention he wanted to attend and to see if other creators and fans would enjoy it just as much. From the standing ovation he received at Sunday’s closing ceremony, it appears he was right.
Chris Roberson pointed out to me that Fabletown and Beyond was a lot like fantasy and sci-fi literary conventions. It had that feel from the opening ceremony (an idea Willingham freely admits to stealing from fantasy/sci-fi shows) to the final farewell. It was completely focused on comics and storytelling, and it was a uniquely intimate experience. The show was only designed to accommodate a maximum of 500 attendees, and it got 505. That meant I kept seeing the same faces over and over again all weekend — creators and fans alike — so that by the third day, even people I never talked to were familiar. Instead of a hectic event where people rushed from place to place trying to see and do everything they wanted to, it was a relaxed environment that felt more like just hanging out with friends. Really smart, interesting friends.
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Digital comics | Vertical Inc. becomes the latest manga publisher to take the plunge into digital, beginning with the release of three series: Twin Spica, Drops of God and 7 Billion Needles for Kindle, Nook and iBooks. [Anime News Network]
Conventions | Fables creator Bill Willingham is the host of this weekend’s Fabletown and Beyond convention in Rochester, Minnesota, focusing on “mythic fiction.” He and organizer Stacy Sinner give a preview of what is to come. “I’m the host of the event, which means I get a lot of people to do the actual hard work, while I sit back imperiously on my throne and say ‘Yes,’ to this, and, ‘No,’ to that,” Willingham said. “The downside is, of course, I also have to write the checks.” [Rochester Post-Bulletin]
Coming up this weekend at Emerald City Comicon, writer Paul Allor (Table G-01) will have advance copies of the first issue of Strange Nation, his new Action Lab Comics miniseries with artist Juan Romera. The book’s premise is straightforward: Norma Park is a journalist who finds herself out of work after claiming to uncover a story involving Sasquatch, aliens and mad scientists. Her insistence at delving deeper into this story is when the real fun begins. In addition to offering an advance copy of the first issue this weekend, Allor will also make it available for Fabletown and Beyond (March 22-24, 2013, in Rochester, Minnesota). The full miniseries will hit stands in late 2013 in comic stores and through digital distribution outlets. In anticipation of ECCC, Allor joined me for a brief interview, and provided ROBOT 6 with a five-page previews.
Tim O’Shea: How long has Strange Nation been in development, and what prompted you to tap Juan Romera as the artist?
Paul Allor: I probably started working on the pitch for Strange Nation a little more than a year ago. Juan was the first person I had in mind for the art, having worked with him previously on “Reach the Sun.” one of the stories in my Clockwork comics anthology (which Robot 6 interviewed Allor about in 2011). Juan is awesome at both the wacky, out-there aspects of the book, and also at nailing the small emotional moments. I thought this book would be a great place to showcase both sides of that.
Aiming to cut the fat from the bloated pop-culture extravaganzas, a new creator-branded model for comic conventions is drawing fans to a more curated and unique experience.
For decades, comic conventions have been building up (or “diversifying,” if you prefer) to include television shows, movies, video games, board games, toys, novels, scantily clad models, and new-media companies that used speech balloons in their marketing campaign that one time. Basically they’ve become magnets for any project with an air of geekery, regardless of the lack of any sequential art or cartooning. A number of cons can feel more like a pop-up strip mall in their efforts to be everything for as many people as possible. And con-goers feel it. You really haven’t had the full convention experience if you don’t hear someone grumble how the con used to be about the comics, man. It’s a chorus that seems to attract more voices each year.
Perhaps in response to the growing Grumble Choir, a number of event organizers have been testing more focused conventions branded under a single creator or identity. These conventions bring in vendors, guests and exhibitors that more directly reflect the name on the banners, resulting in a more authentic and cohesive experience. While it’s splicing a niche market to a niche within a niche, it’s also creating a more irresistible ticket item for people within that sub-niche. And those fans coming to see the name they recognize are probably super-fans eager to experience, sample and buy more at a deeper level than the more scattershot crowd under the general geek umbrella.
Bill Willingham sent out a newsletter last week to those who expressed interest in his inaugural Fabletown and Beyond convention next March in Rochester, Minnesota. It was a long email, so I’ll just hit the highlights, but those who want to learn more can do so at the convention’s website or by following the event on Twitter.
Fabletown and Beyond will celebrate what Willingham calls “Mythic Fiction,” which includes books about fables, fairy tales, folklore and mythology. “It’s a growing movement within entertainment as a whole, and comics in particular,” Willingham writes. “We decided it needed its own convention to better explore and appreciate.”