Fabletown and Beyond – FABLESCON

The keys to the kingdom

The keys to the kingdom

When Dan and I heard about the inaugural FablesTown and Beyond Convention being held in Rochester, MN, we thought, “A brand new comic con with A-List talent, 60 miles south of our backyard? We are so there!” This new comic con was celebrating mythic fiction in comics, and was doing it its own way. With ticket sales capped at 500, the con had a wonderfully intimate feel. Besides making the convention hall easy to navigate, the intentionally small crowd allowed wonderful access to creators in attendance.

And really, the access was what it was all about. Sure, everyone had their own tables set up on the merchandise room. You could have your books signed, commission a sketch, or just say “COMICS RULE!” to your favorite creator. But what organizer Bill Willingham set up for FablesTown was pure genius: The Kill Shakespeare Bar. Held at the Kahler Hotel, Willingham rented out the hotel bar for the duration of the con. If you weren’t at the hotel for the con, the bar was off limits to you. And here comes the genius part: the creators were not only scheduled for shifts on panels, they were also scheduled for shifts at the bar.

Kate and Dan meet the crazy men behind KILL SHAKESPEARE

Kate and Dan meet the crazy men behind KILL SHAKESPEARE

That’s right – the writers and artists all had to be at the bar during their scheduled times. Fans were encouraged to introduce themselves, have conversation, and share an adult beverage or two.

We attended our first panel ever at a comic convention at FablesCon. (Don’t look so shocked. We usually hang out in Artist’s Alley, hovering over the talent.) The panel “Stargazing” featured artists Peter Krause and Mitch Gerads and was moderated by publisher Allison Baker. Peter, who’s been in comics for 25 years, believes that there is an inspiring amount of talent in the industry and that we are seeing the best of comics right now. The two artists also explained the differences in their techniques: Peter does all of his drawing digitally and Mitch pencils digitally then does the inking on paper.

During the “Get to Work” panel, writer Kurt Busiek and Allison Baker discussed with moderator Conor McCreery the benefits of working independently versus for one of the big comic publishers. When Kurt started in the comics industry, he had the option of working for one of the big 2 publishers, Archie Comics, or self-publish. The idea at that time was to work for DC or Marvel, develop a following, and then move to smaller, creator-owned lines. He believes that the barriers between the creator and reader and getting fewer and fewer today.

02_03Allison and Kurt also discussed the importance of maintaining and developing relationships with other people in the industry. Their recommendations include not screwing people over, to be honest, and to be on time. It sounded so obvious, but if it bears saying aloud, it must need saying…

The final panel we attended was “Mr. Fix-It Show” with Allison Baker, writer Chris Roberson, writer Conor McCreery, and moderated by artist Peter Gross. Chris and Allison discussed how their publishing company, MonkeyBrain Comics, is doing what they can to fix the comics industry. The creators that work with MonkeyBrain sign the digital rights to their work over to the publisher, but they retain the printing rights. The digital format has an unlimited page count and gives the creators more freedom with how long, or short, their book will be. DC Comics recently cut the length of their hard copy books down to 20 pages from 22. This change results in a pay cut to writers and artists who are typically paid by the page.

FablesCon host Bill Willingham, creator of the Fables comics, should be proud of a job well done organizing this convention. The programming was amazing, the talent superb, and the flow of the convention flawless. It was hard to believe that this was the first time this convention had been held, and I hope that this will be the first of many FableTown and Beyond conventions!

Kate Malmon
(Dan kept yelling about all the cool stuff they saw at the con, but Kate did the typing.)