Recap: Supanova 2015

Just quickly, let’s explain that photograph - my convention pal Janet makes super cool stuff. We were chatting about some of her new products, she asked if I like Thor (YES!) , then bounded off. She brought me back a Penjolnir! There’s a Sharpie texta inside the handle! I checked out her table later - her Jigglypuff hammers are just as adorable - and they also have a little bell inside them! Squee!

Anyways - that’s the convention season done for the year! This weekend was Brisbane’s flagship pop culture event, Supanova. It was loads of fun!

You’ve really gotta hand it to the Supanova organisers this year - they drew in some truly legendary comics creators for the Brisbane and Adelaide shows. It was such a privilige to chat with artists Dave Gibbons (Watchmen, The Ordinaries), Bob Layton (Iron Man, Hercules, and well, basically Valiant Comics), and Joe Jusko (Conan, leading fantasy artist).

All three were great to talk with - so accessible and friendly and forthcoming.

Dave and Joe both shared insightful stories and advice. Dave in particular kinda caught me off guard by asking me about my comics, and he shared advice and anecdotes around common experiences. It’s humbling to share the stories of the two SHELL books with a guy like Dave Gibbons.

Bob Layton. Holy shit. A comics creator (turned comics businessman) casually dropped the phrase “P & Ls” into our conversation. Be still, my beating heart. His insights confirmed a lot of the suspicions I’ve been developing over the past couple of years of studying The Comic Chronicles sales figures and price modelling and realising that small-time publishing is a chump’s game.

An emerging comics creator like myself isn’t stepping into a continuation of the comics medium, as it had developed over the past 70-odd years. It’s more along the lines of a transformation. Newspapers are largely a dead legacy concern, and the financial viability of monthly editions has been declining since the hey-days of the early 1990s. Diamond (the comics distribution monopoly) crushes the life out of reaching a wide market - they’re likely to take a 60% cut of any sales for a self-publisher such as myself. Digital marketplace Comixology isn’t much friendlier.

And our conversation reinforced the realisation that the legwork that we put into discovering/re-establishing marketing and retailing channels will reap dividends in ~10 years.

Idle thoughts, which really need further development: Could comic creators ever get their works funded/scheduled to a point of viability along the lines of music artists who produce an album every two years (give or take)? Release a few key chunks along the way, similar to an album’s “singles” to keep interest warm? And sell a complete story as a finished volume. I wonder what that would do to the creative process..? Would it reinvigorate the role of an editor to ensure high production standards and marketability? Drive the works to be commercially sound before pencil ever hits the page?

Those are thoughts which need more beers and burgers to flesh them out properly.

I haven’t heard the numbers yet, but this year’s Brisbane event felt a little smaller than the past couple of crazy-busy years. Of course, my crowd-size abilities may also be skewed from PAX Australia. It’s roughly double the size of Supanova. So I have an enormous amount of gratitude to the Supanova organisers for bringing veteran comics creators to the party. There’s a lingering perception that the comics medium runs in a distant third place of the pop culture world for Supanova organisers, behind Hollywood and cosplay. Having massive comic creators attend Supanova goes a long way toward encouraging me; it’s our local responsibility to build our own marketplace to support Supanova in return.