Comic-Con — the Super Bowl of all things geek — is happening this week. While hundreds of thousands of people will be in San Diego obsessing over their favorite movies, TV shows, games and more, there’s one local guy who will be there in a different, more awesome, capacity.
Web comic creator Brock Heasley has reached a new level of Comic-Con. He’s speaking on a panel — one of hundreds over the four-day expo — on Friday afternoon about digital comics. It’s a subject he knows pretty well, and not necessarily in the most joyous way.
You might remember Heasley’s name because we wrote about his comic “Monsterplex” that won DC Comic’s Zuda competition. Well, Zuda imploded and his team’s DC Comics contract vanished with it. He still stays plenty busy with his primary web comic, The SuperFogeys. But you can imagine Heasley has something to say about digital comics.
We chatted with him before he ventured down to Comic-Con to get the scoop on everything.
First things first, how did you get invited to be on a panel at Comic-Con?
I was invited to participate by Nick Langley of Rocket Llama (a webcomic and geek news blog). Nick was incredibly supportive of us back in February during the Zuda competition was already set to speak on the economics of webcomics for the Digital Comics panel. He thought my recent experiences might provide some unique insight.
For people kinda unfamiliar with Comic-Con and all that, how big of a deal is this for you?
This is HUGE. My first trip to Comic-Con was back in 2004 when I was a nonentity as far as the comics world was concerned. I tried and failed to get my foot in the door. To be back six years later as a professional AND to be speaking on a panel? My mind is sufficiently blown. In the universe of all things geek, this is the biggest show on Earth. Hundreds of thousands of people will descend on San Diego this week. Celebrities will be showing off next summer’s movies, every major news outlet will be covering it, people will dress up in the strangest way, etc. It’s a humbling experience to be even a small part of that.
Give us a preview about what you’re going to say about digital comics?
The nice part about my assignment is that Nick has made it easy on me. I know the topic is the economics of webcomics and that I’ve been asked to speak on my Zuda experience in particular, but I don’t really have a formal presentation I have to worry about. I’ll be taking questions from Nick and (hopefully) from the audience. I think a big part of the discussion will be why and how things ended at Zuda the way that they did.
Anything else you’re particularly excited about seeing at Comic-Con?
So, so much. I’m looking forward to the Marvel presentation on the Captain America and Thor movies coming out next year. There’s a JJ Abrams/Joss Whedon panel I’m dying to get into. My wife is going with me and I know there’s several TV Show panels that she’d like to see, like “Burn Notice” and “White Collar.” But, the thing I love best about Comic-Con is the atmosphere. It’s insane and more crowded than a sports stadium, but everyone is there out of a shared love. Seeing what crazy things people will wear this year and seeing old friends and making some new ones is what it’s all about.
Last we heard from you, you and some friends had won a contest with DC Comics with your comic “Monsterplex.” But I hear that didn’t end up so well. What happened?
The worst possible thing is what happened. After 3 years, DC Comics shut down their online comics division, Zuda, and cut loose the newer comics, like ours, that hadn’t really gotten a chance to start yet. I’m sure the reasons why came down to money issues, but the timing couldn’t have been worse. For a few months there I and the rest of my team (including Fresno artist David Schlotterback and colorist Michael DeVito) had a contract with DC Freakin’ Comics. Then, it was over. Luckily, we got the rights to our comic back and they sent some cash our way for the trouble, but it should have been so much cooler than that.
What are the future plans for “Monsterplex?”
That’s something we’re deciding right now. Everyone’s seen the eight pages we posted for the competition, but we have 10 additional pages that are more or less completed that we’d love to get out there. After Comic-Con, we’ll be setting up a site at www.monsterplex.com and be releasing them one a day until they’re all gone. After that? Remains to be seen. Zuda shutting down kind of took the wind out of our sails and the money we got as a “settlement” is nowhere near what we would have been paid to finish out our contracted 60 pages. I’d love to see us continue the series, but I just don’t know right now.
Tell us a bit about your other comic, SuperFogeys, how long has it been running? What’s it about? How often does it come out? Where can people find it? All that good stuff.
The SuperFogeys is a comic I’ve been producing on a twice-weekly basis since September of 2006. This one is my baby. I do the whole thing–writing, drawing, coloring, lettering, etc. The comic is a slightly comedic attempt to answer the question “What if Superheroes and Villains aged?” In this case, the answer is that they’d all be dumped into a retirement home in Florida called Valhalla. Regular updates run on Thursday, while SuperFogeys Origins, a look back on the early history of the characters, runs on Tuesdays. You can find it at www.superfogeys.com This is a great time to get into the series as August will see twice as many updates as usual and the central mystery of the series from the very beginning will be resolved. Unbeknownst to the Fogeys, the founder of Valhalla, Dr. Klein, is also secretly a villain known as The Third Man. Up until now, even the readers haven’t known who he really is and what his endgame is all about. That’s about to change.
So are comics a full-time gig for you? Or something you do in your spare time?
Strictly spare time. Comics are a do-it-for-the-love kind of business. True, you can become a very rich man or woman doing it, but that’s rare and on a whole ‘nother level from where I’m at right now. I hope to one day be able to devote more time and rely on comics for bread more, but for now it means a lot of late, late nights.
If your ventures continue to grow, are you committed to the digital world, or is printed comics a goal?
More and more now the lines between the two are blurred. Comics are on the iPad now. We’re getting them into people’s hands in new and different ways all the time. That said, I’m old school. There’s nothing like the feel of a comic in my hands. One of my proudest days was the first time I held SuperFogeys Vol. 1 in my hands (available at Heroes Comics in Fresno–unless they’ve run out!). I hope that people always want paper, but I don’t see anything wrong with getting there through the digital world. To me, they’re not really all that separate.