Sunday at Wizard World Texas was as most Sundays are at such conventions, rather light in its panel programming. The panels were scheduled early in the day with the later hours being committed to video screenings and celebrity signings. I attended two panels.
In the last of its Wizard World University series of panels this weekend, WWTX played host to a rather engaging session asking the question “Can college prepare creators for comics careers?” Participating in the discussion were Jacen Burrows (Crossed), Jason Henderson (Sword of Dracula), Phil Hester (Green Arrow), Nick Langley (Rocket Llama), and Marko Head (markoscorner.com). Ben Templesmith was scheduled to participate in the panel, but apparently the folks paying for his trip were not allowing him to do panels at WWTX. Ethan Van Sciver was also on the roster for the panel, yet never appeared.
This was a terrific panel.
Phil Hester led off the discussion, describing his educational background. He holds an art degree from the University of Iowa. He readily acknowledged that college prepared him to be a better, deeper, more involved artist. It did not; however, prepare him for comics.
Jason Burrows has a degree in Sequential Art from Savannah College of Art and Design. What he treasures about his college experience is the invaluable opportunity to spend four years doing nothing but drawing, receiving truthful criticism, and being challenged daily. Did it prepare him for the business of comics? No. Did it make him a better artist? Yes!
Throughout graduate school, Jason Henderson wrote series fiction. He has a history degree and studied Law. “Writers,” He said, “Cannot help but benefit from study.”
He went on to say that a degree program teaches critical thinking and research skills. “These have been tremendously useful to me.”
Langley and Head (no relation to the blogger) both currently attend Henderson University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. They have developed a strategic outlook to their university experience, “Make college work for you.”
Head went on to say that the most important trait one can bring to the college experience is enthusiasm. It energizes your peers and your educators. It is often the convincing factor when arguing for greater liberties and resources.
Hester added that enthusiasm is critical beyond the college experience. “Every successful writer and artist knows someone more talented who isn’t working.”
The difference is often enthusiasm.
The panel encouraged aspiring comics professions to pursue higher education, but also to supplement university with the advice of professionals met at comic conventions.
“The legends can’t wait to tell you what they’ve learned,” Hester explained. “Eisner and Kirby were always helpful and open.”
Writers have a bit more difficult path than artists. Often for the writer to break into the business, he has to engage an artist. The writer then has the challenge of not only honing his or her own skills, but also must inspire the artist to share the vision.
“Writers have to find their creative soul mates,” Said Hester.
It was an excellent panel and was one of many Wizard World University panels this past weekend focusing on the more scholarly aspects of the business.
Billy Tucci spent the entire weekend chatting up his new book, Sgt Rock: The Lost Battalion. The book is based on true events that occurred during WWII in 1944. Today, Tucci brought along LTC Eliel “Arch” Archilla, who flew relief missions during the battle of the Lost Battalion. An amazing discussion was had not about the Sgt Rock comic, but on the real life events on which Tucci’s comic is based.
LTC Archilla is a delightful, well-spoken man. In his career, he flew 98 missions.
“Arch” dropped out of high school at the age of 16. Third youngest in a family of ten, he needed to work to support the family. On Pearl Harbor Day, Archilla was seventeen-and-a-half years old. Learning of the attack, he went to enlist and was denied entry due to his age. He joined up shortly after his eighteenth birthday.
He was flying combat missions in the European theater in just two years.
The air mission to provide relief to the troops pinned down by German troops, was a dangerous one. Weather conditions provided absolutely no visibility and while the pilots dealt with that, they also had to dodge enemy anti-aircraft and small arms fire. Pilots were crashing into mountains because they couldn’t see. The British had grounded their planes. Archilla was one of eight pilots to volunteer for the job.
Truly, it was wonderful to chat with this man and thank him for his service.
The panels were great this year. Many were moderated, which I really appreciate. They were interesting and well planned. Big ups to the folks at Wizard, yo.
Walking the dealer room today, I had an opportunity speak with retailers, publishers, and folks over in artists alley. Everybody I spoke to in artists alley said it was a great weekend for them. Business was steady. Same with the publishers. They all spoke highly of the crowd and fan reaction. I did get mixed reviews from retailers.
I had guys tell me it was a fantastic con for them, that they blew out their expectations. I had an even amount tell me that while the weekend wasn’t bad, it didn’t ring their bells, either.
“Well,” one retailer said, “It’s no San Diego.”
I looked to my buddy, “What is?”
Really, isn’t it a bit much to expect any con to measure up to San Diego – much less an end-of-the-season-show like WWTX?!?
I thoroughly enjoyed the show. I spoke to a lot of fans. All of them shared my appreciation of the event.
Outside the dealer room doors, Wizard proudly posted a sign: “Save Next Year’s Date! Wizard World Texas 2009, November 6-9…”
You know where I’ll be.