Saturday, September 27, 2014

STGCC 2014

Singapore seems to have gotten more expensive. For fans who attended the 2014 edition of STGCC, the cost of attending the convention has gone up. This year, the cost of a VIP pass is $70 and it’s $25 for a 2-day pass. If you just want to attend it for one day, it’s $19. Prices have increased from last year.

Getting a convention sketch from the invited guests is not cheap too. According to info provided by SCK members, Humberto Ramos charged $125 for a b&w bust (head and torso) drawing and $250 for a colour one. David Mack, who also came in 2013, has kept his prices constant. $150 for a simple brush and ink and $300 for a detailed drawing. Harvey Tolibao has remained affordable and charged $100 for a convention sketch, which is value for money. As a comparison, regional and local artists were charging between $10-$20 for sketches.

This is also the first year that an artist, Ramos, was charging for autographs - $6 for any comic drawn by him but $20 for Amazing Spiderman #1. A local artist who queued up for Ramos’ autograph was surprised that he had to pay. But there were reports that Ramos would sketch and autograph for little kids for free.

For regulars at the Artists’ Alley, the cost of getting a booth has also gone up, which makes it harder for them to turn in a profit or breakeven. A recent article highlighted it’s more difficult for artists, even established ones, to cover their cost at conventions.

(although it is interesting that Mark Brooks said in the comments of the above post that he did make money at some conventions and listed STGCC as one of them)

While I would not put the blame solely on cosplayers (as the article did) or the heavy emphasis on toys and games at STGCC, it could be a continuing trend for artists to charge more for convention sketches and to charge for autographs. In overseas conventions, you need to pay to have your photo taken with the artists too. This is following the norm of actors (especially Star Wars and Game of Throne) charging for autographs and photo taking. A friend paid top dollar for an autograph by Carrie Fisher at a London convention recently.

Still, STGCC, being the major comic event in Singapore, has something for almost everyone. Andy Price, the artist of My Little Pony, was there to appeal to the kiddies. For the rock fans, it was cool to meet Frank Kozik in person. And STGCC should be given credit for highlighting young and upcoming artists like Aaron Kim Jacinto from the Philippines, brought in through an arrangement with Komikon. Local artists are still turning up in force at the Artists’ Alley to hawk their wares such as Jerry Teo (Rex Regrets), Ray Toh ( ) and 24 Hour Comic Day alumnus, Benjamin Chee (Charsiew Space). Newcomer Shiuan was also offering her LKY Cosplay Prints, which were very popular. New science educational comic, JJ’s Science Adventure by former primary science Aurelia Tan, was an entertaining read done in a style reminiscent of Osamu Tezuka.

Books Actually has gotten into the comic book publishing act through their Math Paper imprint. But fans would have noticed that the latest volume of The Resident Tourist is more costly now as compared to a few years ago, which is the reality of publishing in Singapore today. At other fronts, it is encouraging that local and regional comic shops are making an appearance at STGCC, other than regulars such as GnB Comics. This is the first year that Comic Odyssey (the Philippines) and Atom Comics set up booths at STGCC, offering new and back issues of collectibles. Hopefully it was worth their while for them to come back next year. A representative of CGC Comics was also at the con to offer advice to collectors.

Despite its commercial leanings, STGCC is still that once-a-year occasion that you catch up with old friends and make new ones. Sales may not be great for some artists, but attending the con was a way to connect with the local and regional comic community. It was good catching up with Andie Tong (who has a new comic written by Stan Lee), Leong Wan Kok of 1000tentacles, Chris Lie of Caravan Studios (who came with his studio and an impressive range of books) and Lefty Kam (Gilamon) for that annual beer outside the convention hall. And it was great to meet some of the Singapore Comic Kakis who launched their inaugural newsletter, put together in time for the con.

I did a few interviews with the invited guests of the con. These are some of the choice quotes from the sessions:

I’ve been living in LA since 2005, and before that we were living in San Diego. Basically you still need to be out there to network and have that human connection with the editors and writers. If you just stay on in your home country, you might be pigeonholed by the DC or Marvel editors as outsourced labour. My advice is that you need to solve problems for others to prove that you are useful to the people in the industry. You need to see the whole bigger picture of how you can build your career.
- Philip Tan on drawing for mainstream comics as a career.

The best thing is that you get to connect with the people who support your work, the fans. The worst thing is the food. Convention centre food is not very good. And you are tired from the jetlag.
- Humberto Ramos on the best and worst thing of attending overseas conventions.

I don’t like it, the extreme violence. Comics are meant for kids. But I felt it was my duty to draw it. That’s a good question. Maybe I should have discussed with the writer and editor.
- Olivier Coipel on drawing that infamous double spread of the Sentry tearing Ares apart in Siege #2 (2010), with the entrails spilling all over.

I have always created the characters that I drew, keeping them true to character. So drawing Daredevil: End of Days was fun. That spirit of collaboration with the history. It was not a constraint, but a challenge to be creative. Doing different things energise me. By the way, there will be a sequel, Punisher: End of Days.
- David Mack casually breaking the news of a sequel to the popular Daredevil: End of Days (2012).

This is my first international comic con and this is my first interview. I’m a bit nervous!
- what Aaron Kim Jacinto said at the end of the interview. He quickly obliged a quick sketch of Rocket Raccoon, engaging in a familiar activity that he was passionate about.

Thought Bubble at Leeds and TCAF at Toronto.
- Cameron Stewart when asked about which are some of his favourite comic conventions. Maybe STGCC will make the cut one day.

This is my first time out of the United States. I just got my passport two weeks ago.
- Andy Price thanking STGCC for giving him the opportunity to travel overseas.

I used to dislike ‘pop culture’ because it was associated with famous people and it is commercial and seen as selling out. But I’ve come to realise that pop culture is about connecting with people.
- Alex Solis on pop culture.

Don’t do it. You don’t have a health plan and you don’t have a pension. It’s tough competition. I was lucky I started before the internet. You are better off being a doctor or engineer. But if you still want to be an artist, don’t go to an art school. It’s fucking expensive in America and they don’t teach you anything. It’s bullshit. Just drop out of art school and use the money to rent a workspace and buy yourself tools.
- Frank Kozek when asked what advice he would give young artists.

See you next year.

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