Pros & Cons:May 2012

Published on May 16th, 2012

I had been to comic conventions before. Sat at the table of Vision Con and tried to sell every living soul a copy of Captain Crafty, the indy comic I had colored  (Story & Art by Brian Rice, inks by David Bryant) while Klingons taunted cast members of adamwestBattlestar Galactica. I had slept on the floor in Chicago as 10 of us split the cost of a room built for 4 so we could afford a convention table and pursue our dreams as comic creators.  I had smiled patiently as the guy with the Rush Limbaugh comic at the table next to me in Kansas City scared yet another family in my direction.  Yes, I had been to cons before, but this was different, I was to be a guest for the first time.  It was the mid nineties and I had been invited to Mid-Ohio Con. I arrived the in the evening the day before the convention and downtown Columbus had already pulled the sidewalks in for the night.  I wandered into the hotel bar hoping to get a bite to eat and who sits near me at the bar? Adam West.  The Adam West.  Mother%$#@ing BATMAN – Adam West!!!  I did my best to play it cool but I’m afraid my inner fanboy got the best of me. There were other people in the bar but if they recognized Mr. West they were either too shy or too polite to come up to him. I blurted out a few niceties and he was kind and generous with stories as he enjoyed his cocktail.  He seemed calm and relaxed.  He was altogether unexcited about being Adam West (perhaps someone should tell him).  As we sat there he told me other members of the Batman cast would be attendance including Frank Gorshin (The Riddler)  and Yvonne Craig (Batgirl – we later shared an elevator ride), and we discussed the Batmobile at length.  Probably at boring length to Adam West yet I was enthralled as he dished out tales of his life as Batman in the 1960’s.

The next day was the start of the show and honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Right off the bat I ran into Justin Chung from World Famous Comics.  He and I had met at Chicago Comicon the year before.  He was working with the Mid-Ohio Con organizers and had my day all mapped out for me.  He showed me to a table (far away from Adam West and friends I’m afraid) and introduced me to the creator at the adjoining table, a young artist named Joe Corroney.  Joe had all this cool Star Wars artwork on display and he and I geeked out over Star Wars, Star Trek, and Batman.  I believe he was coloring all his work with colored pencils and watercolors back then and I tried to extol the virtues of digital color but he was having none of it. Joe asked me, why I colored comics digitally.  I answered, because no one told me I couldn’t.  I laid out the copies of Captain Crafty comic books I had brought along, as well as some samples of covers I had colored for other small press comics.  Fans were super responsive to the comic books I had brought as well as Joe’s Star Wars artwork and the two of us had a great time being “neighbors” at Mid-Ohio Con.

Hi-Fi’s Brian Miller and illustrator Joe Corroney sign comics at IDW’s booth – Comic-Con International

After a few hours Justin came back and asked if I was ready for my panel.  It would seem the organizers had placed me on the, “How to Break into Comics” panel. Justin shows me to the panel room where I was one of 4 panelist.  Me, two other creators, and a moderator. I honestly don’t remember the other two creators now but they were somebodies and I was definitely a nobody.  Panel moderator was Maggie Thompson, editor of Comics Buyers Guide and presumably one of the most powerful people in comics since a CBG review of a small press comic book could make or break it in the eyes of fans and retailers. Maggie did a fantastic job of leading the panel and when the question came about Captain Crafty being one of the first full color small press comics I spoke about what I knew best, digital coloring.  I may as well said that I held a séance and invited dearly departed spirits to color the comic books with magic.  The truth was coloring Captain Crafty digitally saved thousands in production costs but other than Spawn and a handful of Image titles few comics received this treatment and it was looked upon as a fad, no worse than a fad, as cheating and non-creative.  People thought there was a magic color button you could press and the computer would do the work for you.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  I spoke with passion about digital coloring. Coloring comics using Adobe Photoshop opened a new universe of possibilities for comics and comic creators. To me the writing on the wall was clear.  This technology would not merely impact comics, it would become the basis for all print publications in the future.  The old style mechanical coloring separations were doomed and digital would take over for comics, magazines, everything.  The change was as inevitable as Batman fighting The Joker, only very few people realized it at the time, and most wrote it off out of fear or ignorance.  But there were some who got it.   After the panel a few people who had been in the audience came to me full of questions and excitement.  They wanted to see Captain Crafty and see the quality of the printed colors.  They wanted to talk about the hardware and software I was using as well as my art background and how I was adapting Photoshop to work like a traditional airbrush and frisket. Several creators asked if I would take a shot at coloring their covers and pin-ups hoping to stand out from the crowd of flat color comics that filled spinner racks everywhere.


I met a dozen celebrities that weekend and more up and coming creators than I can count.  Some I have admired from afar and others I’ve had the pleasure to collaborate with on projects.  Joe Corroney and I now work on projects together nearly every month of the year.  His Star Wars art is more amazing than ever and the colors don’t look bad if I do say so myself.  A lot of things have changed since that Mid-Ohio Con of long ago but my spirit of exploration and collaboration remains the same.  My wife Kristy and I have been invited as guest to Phoenix Comicon, May 24-27.  We’ll have new comics and artwork at our table and will be participating in several panels including one on digital coloring.  Joe Corroney couldn’t make it this year but good friends like Ethan Van Sciver, Norm Rapmund, and George Perez will be there along with Justin from World Famous Comics.  The cast of Batman will not be on hand but much of the cast of Star Trek: TNG will be along with the original Captain Kirk, William Shatner.  It should be one amazing convention.  While at Phoenix Comicon I hope to meet some up and coming creators who are making something new, creating the impossible, because no one told them, they couldn’t.

Hi-Fi’s Brian Miller signs comic books for fans during Free Comic Book Day

Thanks for joining me for the first installment of Comic Impact’s Color Commentary blog.  Be sure to listen to the Color Commentary podcast where every episode I’ll take you on a journey Behind the Panels of a recently released comic book and share with you true life stories from the making of that issue. Plus you will meet Intern Justin and follow his progress from struggling art student to aspiring comic book colorist. Here is a glimpse at Intern Justin’s first experience being on the creator side of the table at Free Comic Book Day.

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Brian Miller