At Doujicon 2006

I haven’t been to a comics convention before so I was really excited when I learned about Doujicon – a convention for comics creators held at the Monash University’s Caulfield Campus last Saturday. Of course, I went just to see what a comics convention in Melbourne would be like.

Well, it wasn’t that big an event, in my opinion. To be fair, though, it was meant to be a convention mainly for comics creators and not a general comics convention. So, most of the people there are comics creators (artists, writers, publishers), would-be comics creators (such as myself) and their friends. And, if I may add, not everybody seemed to have decided to take a bath that day.

I almost got lost getting there but I soon found my way to the registration table. Thankfully, the entrance fee was only $5. Although my main reason for going there was to attend the “classes” and “talks” held during the event, I visited the area where the comics creators were selling their books and merchandise. I wanted to find out what’s out here in terms of potential competition, I guess. What sells, what doesn’t. What’s the skill level of the people producing independent comic books? How much are they selling the books for?

Most of the books were in the $4 to $10 range. I was impressed by the quality of art by some of them while the others, well, not so. And of those with the good art, the story in a few were a bit so-so. Still, I’m glad to see a number of quality comic books there. It has inspired me to delve more into printed comic books, actually.

After a couple of minutes of browsing the stuff at the tables, I hit the area where the “classes” and “talks” were being held. I went in the “Please Tell Me Why My Comic Sucks…” talk just as it was wrapping up (I was late). Ah, well. The next talk was called “Webcomics: The Future or Just Cheaper?” so I was particularly interested being a webcomic creator myself.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really learn a lot of new things in that talk. I guess I was expecting too much. I ended up talking about my own experiences while I was at the talk. The person giving the talk, Daniel Elliot aka Gerkinvision was supposed to be this popular webcomic artist but I haven’t really heard of him before then. And now I know why. Although I’ve seen his art before around the Web, I’ve ignored it because I’m not really a fan of weird art, animation or comics.

Anyway, he has his idea of what a webcomic should be and I had mine. And they weren’t the same thing. He was advising us to be very original. Avoid cliches. Okay, in some ways, I agree with these statements. But by original, he meant create a fantastic creature with a lobster claw in one hand, a tentacle in the other and has a chicken foot at the back of its head holding an orb that can tell the future! I guess that would work if the comic was meant to be a weird comedy. But for comics with serious stories, I don’t think that kind of creature would fit in naturally. But then, he’s more popular than I am in the webcomics realm so he must be doing things right (and I’m not).

Still, I believe in doing things I like to do. And doing weird comics or adult-themed comics just so I could have a popular comic doesn’t appeal to me too much. However, right then, I wish that I had a more original story for a webcomic than about five adventurers in a quest to save a fantasy land from evil. Sure, I’ve thought about this lack of originality in my part for years now but the die has been cast. I want to see this story through.

Another thing he was advocating was to write more Australian stories. He was tired of people who write stories whose lead characters have Japanese names but they themselves know little about Japanese culture apart from what they’ve seen in Anime and Manga. I kinda agree with him on the whole Japan culture thing. I also would have agreed on doing Australian stories if I was born here. The problem is that although I now live here, I didn’t grow up here. So, I couldn’t convincingly write about Australians (the way they know themselves). I can probably write about Americans more as I grew up in that kind of culture, even if I did grow up in the Philippines.

Soon, that talk was over and I took the opportunity to pass around those Lovarian Adventures bookmarks I made. I figured some of these starting webcomic creators might want some help getting their webcomics off the ground. They can always reach me through the website address I’ve written in the bookmarks.

The next talk was called “Pitching to a Publisher” by Kevin Patrick, editor and publisher of The Panther. We started the talk by Kevin asking each one of us there what our experiences were in doing comics. I went in still having that whole “be original” mantra in mind. So, when I told him about Lovarian Adventures, I quickly said that it wasn’t the most original story around but people who read it loyally seem to love it for the characters. He told me that I didn’t need to be self-deprecating. In fact, if I was aiming to be published, publishers would more likely go for a tried-and-true story premise than something weird and original. He said that I could appeal to a certain niche market. And that was what I thought when I originally started my webcomic. I wanted to appeal to the fantasy RPG gamers out there.

He asked me for samples of my work, so I gave him one of my bookmarks. He seemed to have liked it enough that he asked for the whole bunch and passed it on to everybody in the talk. Whew. At least, I didn’t have to hand the bookmarks to any more people myself.

From all the talks I’ve heard that day, Kevin’s was the most I learned from. He gave us tips to get a potential publisher’s attention. For any story, one has to give it a very short summary. Something catchy and gives the publisher a quick idea of what to expect. As an example, Steven Segal’s movie Under Siege could be described as “Die Hard on a train.” Simple. And it gets the point across. That is, if the publisher has seen Die Hard. Anyway, you get the point.

He also told us not to just approach comic book publishers. If we want to get printed (for the purpose of having something added to your art portfolio), we could seek out other published media like magazines and posters. Anything to get our name out there. This increases the chance of getting the attention of a comic book publisher in the future.

So, yeah. I enjoyed that one talk. I went to about three more classes at the event but most of the things being taught there, I already know. I basically wasted my time staying there after the Publishing talk.

Still, I’m glad I went. At least, I now know what kind of stuff is being printed out there locally. It’s a learning experience, definitely. I heard there was going to be another Doujicon next year. I might go again, but this time, I hope I have something to sell myself.

Published in: on August 1, 2006 at 12:28 pm  Comments (4)