King Con Returns to Brooklyn! Plus, a Sketchbook Competition!

When you think of a comic book convention you probably picture the sprawling mass of humanity, sometimes a hundred thousand strong, that makes up the likes of San Diego Comic-Con or New York Comic Con or Wonder Con or Emerald City ComiCon. But there are also many smaller, more intimate, and often more independently minded, comic book shows that have steadily been gaining in popularity and prominance over the years. Shows like APE in San Francisco, SPX in Bethesda, MoCCA in New York, and Stumptown in Portland. Add to the list King Con which made its debut last year as a Brooklyn-centric comic book show. (Brooklyn is in Kings County, in case you were wondering about the name.)

King Con returns next weekend and we spoke to one of the co-directors of King Con, Regan Jaye Fishman.

Conor Kilpatrick: For people who might not know, can you tell us what King Con is and how it came about?

Regan Jaye Fishman: King Con is Brooklyn's FIRST big comic con and the largest of its kind in the borough. The con will take place Saturday and Sunday November 6th and 7th, with special events and panels on the 4th and 5th. Admission is $7 per Day, $10 for the weekend ($3/$5 for kids) and $3 for the Thursday and Friday events.

It will feature fifty-plus exhibitors and some pretty heavy hitting comic talent: Chris Claremont, Jonathan Ames, Sarah Glidden, Dean Haspiel, Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan, Raina Telgemeier, Rick Parker, Kyle Baker, Bob Fingerman — just to name a few. Plus there will be a series of LiveComix readings featuring Joan Hilty, Paul Pope, Jeff Newelt and others on Friday night. Despite its size, there is a lot of intimacy and we encourage talent and attendees to interact. There is something to enjoy no matter what your age or familiarity with comics.

King Con was sort of spawned from the 'Zine fest we had back in the summer of 2009, which was attended by almost as many independent comic artists as pure 'Zinesters. We thought, why not put together a real, actual comic con? I am a dyed in the wool nerd, so the end result was very much a labor of love

CK: Last year was the first King Con. How did it go?

RJF: Amazing. It was a weekend full of fun and love, where everyone got to interact with the people they came to see in a profoundly intimate way. I got to talk about junkfood with Harvey Pekar. I treasure that moment so immensely now.

I was so happy to see everyone selling books and having a great time. I was introduced to SO much new talent that weekend! My only regret is having been too frazzled and nervous to enjoy it as much as everyone else did.

I think people left feeling they got a lot of entertainment for what, compared to the bigger cons, was a relatively small price. And a lot of the guys that tend to get swallowed up at San Diego and New York left feeling like superstars.

CK: How many people ended up attending?

RJF: About 7,000 over the course of the entire weekend. I felt that Sunday was slightly lower because schedule issues had all of our headliners appearing Saturday only. We were careful to space everything out this time.

CK: And about how many exhibitors/pros did you have?

RJF: I think we had about 56? Plus two last minute tables for a surprise appearance by Neal Adams and family.  We had dozens of panelers…the exact number eludes me but I do know it took our amazing Girl Friday, Dhira Rauch literally until the sun came up to get all their place cards done.

CK: King Con is more of an independent minded con much like another popular New York City festival – MoCCA. How do you differentiate yourselves?

RJF: I don't think we did it on purpose, but we are different. We try to stay largely Brooklyn-identified and, in curating, we try to include things that are interesting and compelling even if they occasionally don't fall under the umbrella of comics proper. Last year we even had a few tattoo artists! I think I would be remiss in saying that we didn't look to MoCCA as an example and, certainly, I have spoken with Ed Catto and Jim Salicrup a great deal this year, but we are just an inherently different animal. Perhaps that's because I didn't have experience putting together a con, and I was left with no choice but to ask the exhibiting artists what they wanted out of a Brooklyn convention experience, and let that shape it…so we ended up being "by the people, for the people" instead of just by committee.

CK: You've expanded King Con to four days this year, which is pretty long for a local convention. What were the reasons behind that?

RJF: The con proper is Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 7:30pm, the other two days are events we felt would be too big – too distracting – from the con itself. Thursday are two very special panels:

"Death of Print Media: The Needs of the Many" How does the implosion of print media impact the artists in general and New York artists in particular? Is there a viable game plan for the future now that things have changed dramatically in the past few years? How is the plight of artist different from that of journalists or photographers?


"The Wants of the Few: Atlantic Yards, Comics, and the Changing Face of Brooklyn" What would Batman be if his Gotham was all Gristedes and Forever 21…(Bed, Bath, and Batman?) How is the Seepage of Suburban Sprawl affecting the artists who create here?

Also, on Friday night from 7pm to midnight is the KICKOFF PARTY / Live Comix Reading with Dean Haspiel, Paul Pope, Jeff Newelt aka JahFurry, Jen Ferguson, Seth Kushner, Joan Hilty & Joe Infurnari. DJ Pulphope (Paul Pope), DJ CrossHatch (Brian Heater) + live performances by Americans UK & Charles Soules Band

CK: What should someone who is heading to King Con keep their eye out for?

RJF: Famous folks milling about as attendees. Amazing raffles throughout the weekend. The incredible Drawbridge Sketch Competition [Editor's note: See below]. The occasional dressed up pet. Dr. Sketchy's! Local artisan food vendors. Carefully curated exhibitions. A short brown-haired girl who will not have had any sleep since late September.

CK: How would you describe the comics scene in Brooklyn?

RJF: It can be insular, but its very warm…at least in my experience. You see a lot of people who are in their studios writing and drawing eighty hours a week, but when you see them out, at signings and events, they are always welcoming and friendly. I watched Dean Haspiel once make himself late to a birthday just to look at someone's sketches, and Brian Wood regularly lets me interrupt him with con-related blather. They are genuinely lovely people.
I think much of the stuff thats comic out of Brooklyn right now is personal and autobiographical, human and relatable. You feel that fact most when you interact with the creators…you talk with them a while and think, "My God, I've read your Heart"

CK: With so many large comic conventions these days — there seems to be a major convention once a month now — are smaller, more local cons viable? Do you worry about comic convention fatigue?

RJF: My gosh yes! My co-director Brian Heater, warned me of it as soon as he came on board and I definitely feel it now. I have even had some tablers tell me that they are tired of sitting behind tables. Thats why i try so hard to make this one different; why I run around with bottles of water. I know everyone has soldiered through a busy convention season, and that quite a few of them have come back purely out of love, and I want them to feel that love right back. I want this to be as worthwhile and profitable for them as it is for the building and I work hard to get tushies by their tables. I love what they do, I read what they write and I feel the struggle of self-actualized survival every day. I am grateful as hell that after saving up all year to to BCC, SDCC, NYCC, MoCCA, SPX after traveling everywhere and signing their fingers off people still want to come because they know it is going to be a great time. That means the world to me, so the least I can do for them is make sure the whole weekend is a great party.

Also I give out many, many cookies…and hugs.

CK: Tell me a bit about the venue. The building certainly has a unique history.

RJF: The Lyceum is a 101 year-old, land marked, former bath house and makeshift locker for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The pool still exists below the stage space. We have three floors and a cafe that serves the most addictive, delcious coffee. We have two 30 foot movie screens on which I often watch television, and some pretty sweet bioluminescent spiders living in the basement.

CK: What are your primary goals with King Con? How do you measure success?

RJF: In life and in con creation I measure success by happiness. And people left last year really happy. Of course it helps when [the exhibitors] leave in the black. I want to see the con grow and expand. Ideally, I would like to see it encompass multiple buildings on 4th Avenue and bring some needed revenue to [the neighborhood of] Gowanus, but (and hold me to this) I will never do so at the expense of the people who gave it life. No matter how big it gets, its focus and spotlight will always be on independent creators…the folks who have no bigger fan than me.

If you're heading to King Con next week and you've got your sketchbook in tow, you could be a big winner! Drawbridge, the online sketch collective for cartoonists in Deep Six and Hypothetical Island Studios, is running a sketchbook contest at King Con. Here's what they have to say:

Announcing the King Con Drawbridge Sketchbook Competition!

Think you have the best sketchbook in Brooklyn? Come to King Con November 4-7, and enter your sketchbook in the King Con Drawbridge Sketchbook Competition! You could win the Drawbridge Sketchbook, filled with drawings by Dean Haspiel, Becky Cloonan, Tim Hamilton, Simon Fraser, Reilly Brown, Nick Abadzis, Robin Ha, GB Tran, Joan Reilly, James Smith, and Nathan Schreiber!

Sketchbooks will be judged by a panel on Sunday, and the winning sketchbook must:

1. Have at least FIVE different artists work

2. Have one sketch made at King Con 2010!

The winner will be selected from a jury and announced on Sunday November 7th!    

King Con and Drawbridge see the competition as a way to give back to the sketchbook collectors who commission work and support their favorite artists. As comic conventions grow and transform the fundamental relationship the cons are based on – that between creator and fan – runs the risk of being drowned out. The Drawbridge Sketchbook competition reaffirms this connection between creator and fan, and showcases the depth of talent and community at King Con. We’re hoping artists and fans use the competition to make and collect some amazing work!