Whatever you do, don't call them Slamdance for Comic-Con.
After years of watching the Hollywood machine slowly engulf the San Diego Comic-Con, Pixar story artists Scott Morse and Ted Mathot this year have staked out a creators' enclave across the street from the convention center.
Trickster is a combination bar/store/gallery/symposia happening through Sunday at the San Diego Wine & Culinary Center, offering creator-owned products and a hangout for fans to more intimately engage with comic writers and artists about their craft.
"People created Slamdance because they couldn't get into Sundance," says Morse, also an Eisner-winning graphic novelist currently promoting Crime & Terror, published through his imprint, Red Window. "We're very much a part of Comic-Con. It's not like they kicked us out. Our artists have booths and are selling their work there. The perception is we broke away from Comic-Con, but that's not true. We love Comic-Con. We just want to celebrate us and not the Twilight franchise."
Trickster is offering original art and book sales, daytime workshops on art and storytelling techniques, and evening parties, music, and life-drawing sessions featuring the Gallery Girls, a collective of top Los Angeles art models.
"The idea is to promote work that has a singular vision that doesn't conform to the rules of a franchise property at a big company," says Morse. "We're also focusing on a learning environment, so fans can draw alongside professionals and see how we work. It's not an event where fans are taking pictures, but taking part in a dialogue on the creative process."
A Who's Who of comic luminaries is slated to show throughout the week: Mike Mignola (Hellboy), Steve Niles (30 Days of Night), Bill Sienkiewich (Stray Toasters), Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), Mike Allred (Madman), and fine artist Kent Williams. Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello, who's promoting his graphic novel, Orchid (Dark Horse), will perform tonight [Thurs].
"I've dedicated my career to creator-owned books," says Niles, who wrote Crime & Terror with Morse. "This is the perfect opportunity for the type of stuff I do. We live in a world dominated by superheroes. We need to show the world there's a lot of other things we can do with words and pictures than guys in bathing suits beating each other up."
Although Morse and Mathot put up the money for the space, they've enlisted business sponsors for displays and lectures. Hewlett Packard is promoting printers; Global PSD, a publisher and printer, will give a talk on how to self-publish a book; Brothers Ink, a T-shirt producer, marketer and distributor, is selling T-shirts with Trickster artists' designs; Cartoon Brew, an animation digital publication, is running a film festival of student animated films; the Criterion Collection, an art-house film distributor, is running a fundraiser for victims of the Japanese tsunami, based on its Akira Kurosawa catalogue.
"It's like having a special room at the convention in that artists will still be doing pieces on commission here, but fans will be able to see artists work and be around them in a more informal setting," says Bill Sienkiewicz, an Eisner-winning, Emmy-nominated illustrator who will be auctioning off a specially-created painting for Friday's tsunami relief drive.
Morse and Mathot hatched the plan over the past 18 months, after brainstorming with colleagues and scouring and the city for a venue (particularly one with a liquor license).
"It's hard to find ways to represent ourselves in an event that takes over a city," says Morse. "We wanted to create our own venue where we could call the shots and make the rules, where fans and professionals could have a beer and talk, not by standing in line, but in a more human connection."