Make no mistake, the love for San Diego Comic-Con is strong with all of us here at The Flickcast. In fact, we’ll be covering the Con like no one’s business next month. And yet, as much fun and eye-candy as SDCC can offer the attendee, I wondered, what’s it like for the typical exhibitor? You know, those hard-working and creative artists that manage to secure a booth every year? I decided to find out.
This week, I sat down with Cutter Hays, artist and writer of the Mouse Knight series and perpetual Comic-Con exhibitor (please visit him at booth #I-2; check the official guide under “Mouse Knight”). I wanted to find out what the Con is like from his perspective, what are some of his likes and dislikes regarding the Con itself, and what he looks forward to this year.
The Flickcast: Comic-Con is nearly a month away, what are you doing to get prepared as an artist and an exhibitor?
Cutter Hays: Oh, you know, playing lots of WoW, sleeping 20 hours a day and getting it on with my 20 year-old girlfriend. Actually none of that is true. My girlfriend is 22. No, okay – actually, I’m incredibly busy, under the gun hardcore.
One month ago, a UK publisher signed my books (all of them, the entire Mouse Knight series), signed contracts even. They were going to be doing a special limited run of 200 of each of the first two books, numbered and everything – they were going to say “2010 Comic-Con” on them for collectability. Then, two weeks ago, they wrote to say they weren’t going to be doing any of it this year for some reason (they declined to say).
This left me and my agent in a very bad spot. Not enough time to do it ourselves. Fairly certain that was some kind of break of contract, but maybe not. Who cares? They flaked hard, last minute, and now its up to us. We’re in a time crunch from hell to get those same special editions (minus the hard covers) printed in time for Con and at a huge cost to myself.
Sucks hard, but…whatever. Definitely not the first time publishers have broken their word, it’s just too bad that it’s the rule and not the exception.
TF: You’ve been attending SDCC for many years now, what is something you really look forward to?
CH: Oh yes – I save for it all year. Its my big event by far. My “new year” starts at Comic-Con. Last year, my resolution for this year’s con was to have Squibble’s Story printed and ready.
TF: As much as we all love Comic-Con, it’s sometimes tough to also love the crowds, the hectic schedule, and the logistical nightmares that can arise. What’s the one thing that really gets on your nerves every year?
CH: By far and above all, the crowds. Despite their efforts to reduce the number of people (as mandated by the fire chief three years ago, which is when they started selling limited numbers of tickets), its ridiculous! Try getting from one end to the other on Saturday at noon. Not happening. There are secret ways, though… yesss… secret… no publishum secret ways…
TF: What sort of artistic projects are you currently involved with lately?
CH: My future projects include: Percival’s Quest (Mouse Knight book 4), a complete rewrite of Conversations With a Mouse (MK book 3), and then a space-fantasy novel called Quila Laoshu. Should take me about a year for all three books. The art, well, that might take slightly longer.
TF: Anything special you’ll be showcasing or selling at your booth this year?
CH Well, HOPEFULLY….! The NEW version of the original Mouse Knight, and the NEW release of Squibble’s Story. Oh, and a lot of art for anybody that wants some.
TF: Do you get a chance to get away from the booth and check out the Con? Do you spend more time on the show floor? Or do you enjoy attending some of the panels and programming?
CH: I always want to see panels and programs, but its been years since I have. Last year, I committed to being at my table first thing in the morning and being there pretty much all day. Boy, that worked me.
Plus, the fans weren’t exactly lining up for autographs. I also managed to get NO sleep. So enough of that. This year I have minions to work the booth! MUAHAHAHA!!!
I always cruise around the show floor on preview night and then again at the very end, hopefully before everyone closes up. But again, those crowds sure don’t encourage travel.
TF: A ton of artists, both famous in the industry, and some obscure, come to SDCC. Anyone in particular you’re interested in meeting this year?
CH: I’ve met them all. I’m good friends with several. Really good friends with Steve Rude – we’ve known each other since college. He’s a great guy, and responsible for turning me onto most all of my worthwhile art training. I see him before Con every year and we hang out and paint.
Last year, in my studio. he did an oil portrait of my girlfriend and I watched it happen – he gave me a huge art lesson – it was SO cool. I see a lot of my comrades at Con – both famous and not so famous.
Adam Hughes isn’t necessarily a close friend, but I love his art and am sure to buy his stuff every year. I’m still trying to talk him into using a Wacom tablet. For some reason, he still insists on using a mouse.
Some of the famous people have great attitudes, like Moebius for example. He hasn’t been to Comic-Con in years, but man, I miss him. He was so good to me. Gave me 45 minutes (at Con!) once to go over my sketchbook and then give me some advice.
He is so kind and considerate to his fans. He is my idol if anyone is. I hope someday, if I’m that famous, to go just that far for my fans as well. I really try hard with the few I’ve got. Free art, signed books, whatever they’re into! The fans are everything.
Without them, no book!
TF: What comics are you into right now? Any faves?
Hays: Ummm. Guess what? I don’t…really…read comics. I used to back in the day, but even then it wasn’t really my focus. All the classics of course: Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, Preacher, all great. All of Moebius’ stuff.
Sporadically, some of the new stuff catches my interest. I liked Powers, and the entire Lucifer series was very well-written. I don’t go for super-hero stuff normally. I like creative, original stuff with deep emotions and feeling.
So many people are afraid of feeling anything these days. They avoid it, sometimes even in fiction.