How to Kill an Audience

About a week ago I attended my first academic conference as a presenter and it was awesome. I flew all the way down to Gainesville, Florida to talk about the Red Hulk at the University of Florida’s 9th Annual Comics Conference. First things first, I had an absolute blast. I met some awesome people, listened to some great talks, and partied really, really hard.

However, while I’d love to talk about my entire trip, yes I did see alligators, I really need to get something off my chest, something that really rankled me at the conference: DO NOT READ YOUR PAPER VERBATIM! 

The fact that anyone even THINKS this is acceptable, not to mention actually does it, is absolutely unbelievable. My entire being rails against the practice. What’s worse, I’ve heard from professors more travelled than I that this travesty is common practice in academic circles. More than that, it’s what conferences are built upon!

If you read your paper to a crowd, you’re doing it wrong, it meaning everything. You’ve become the Sandman, softly singing your audience to sleep and unfortunately that’s not the only thing you can do to kill your audience. Below I’ve listed a few other presentation indiscretions that will straight up murder your audience with head shots.

Read Your Paper Verbatim
I suppose I only have once question: How? How does anyone make it through a paper reading and glean anything important from it? How do you as a presenter not respect your audience enough to bore them to death? Your paper is meant to be read, not spoken. The language that you use is likely a reflection of that. It should be a no brainer that at that the very least, you make it audience-friendly, especially when your presentation is open to the public.

When you read a paper you don’t engage your audience, you threaten to put them to sleep. Get up! Move around! Gesture with your hands! Keep us interested! When you read your paper, you show us that you haven’t thought about presenting to an audience. It’s bush league.

Don’t Prepare
You can bet that if I fly from Michigan to Florida to talk about the Hulk, I’m going to talk about the Hulk. I’m not going to ramble, I’m not going to be tempted by tangents, I’m not going to wax philosophical and waste time. And yet, sometimes presenters do just that, slowly suffocating their captive, not captivated, listeners.

Again, this just seems so unprofessional. How can you not know your presentation materials? Have you not practiced your presentation ever? How do you hope to keep us interested if you don’t know what you’re talking about? During the conference someone literally started with “I don’t know what I’m going to talk about today.” What you’ve effectively just done is asked me to pull out my laptop and ignore you.

Don’t Show us Pictures
Comics is a visual medium, virtually inseparable are its text and pictures. You can’t really have comics without both, so why not SHOW us what you’re talking about. How many times have we heard “Show don’t tell” in our English classes? Not only that but you give us some pretty things to look at! It helps break up the monotony of an all text presentation or, God forbid, you’re reading your paper.

And if you don’t have pictures? Bring us the material you’re talking about. Let us see with eyes unclouded by hate because I promise you, if you talk about comics without at least giving us something to look at, we will hate you.

Don’t Talk About the Conference Theme
If the conference is about comics, you sure as heck better talk about comics. That might seem like a no brainer but I think there were at least five or six presentations while I was in Florida that dealt with novels unrelated to comics, a movie trailer unrelated to comics, and just straight text. You think I’m joking and yet… I’m totally not.

People are at this conference, if it’s about comics, to listen to talks about comics. If you don’t feel like talking about comics, dear lord what are you doing? Why are you subjecting us to this torture!

Conclusion
Really what this boils down to is use your common sense. Prepare for your presentation. Talk about the topic. Present your material in a fun and entertaining way, don’t read a paper. Show don’t tell. Don’t be fucking lazy.

However if you do find yourself in one of these death trap talks my friend Amanda has prepared an AMAZING drinking game to combat the woes of the dreaded read paper. All you need is copious amounts of alcohol. But really, should alcohol be required to make it through a presentation?

In an answer: Yes.

Mike DeWeese’s Dark Knight Rises T-shirt

Getting hyped for Bane and the The Dark Knight Rises? The folks at Design by Humans are too and they’ve even got a t-shirt contest going for the flick. Fans can post designs, and whoever’s design gets the most votes wins!

Well our very own Mike DeWeese, the incredible artist behind The Art of War’s awesome aesthetics, entered one of his own amazing designs to the contest. I mean check this beauty out!

The Mouth of Bane

Well what are you waiting for? Head over to Design by Humans to give Mike’s shirt a vote, you’ll be glad you did!

Pre-order The Art of War comic book here
Check out the 3-chapter sample of The Art of War at http://www.theartofwargraphicnovel.com
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Weekly Comic: Bangs

Are there any particular hairstyles that you don’t really like on women? I have two, front bangs and any form of poofing, but I honestly couldn’t tell you why. Don’t get me wrong, some women totally pull it off, but for me it’s just a weird personal preference that rears its ugly head every once in a while. So yeah… That’s the background behind this weeks comic. Silly personal pet peeve pushed to the page.

Bangs

What I Like
First off I like the idea. Second, I’m a huge fan of the monster in the fifth panel. I also kinda like the title panel.

What I Wish I Did Differently
So much! I need to get some new paper, just unmarked line paper. I hate the first two panels just because of the guys hair. I inked a few lines that I shouldn’t have so I decided to color the hair in. Huge mistake. I could definitely could use some tips for lettering cause sweet Christmas those letters are horrible!

Final Thoughts
I think I could have done a lot better here with everything honestly. It was more of a rush job than it should have been. I’ve got something more simple and silly in the works for next time though!

Editorial Edits – Advertising

Welcome back everybody to another awesome installment of Editorial Edits! This week I want to talk about something a little different, I want to talk about advertising in comics. Why? Well I think that advertising in comics presents an interesting problem for artists and editors, they have to plan stories around these immersion-breaking 3rd party pages, and this is accomplished different ways by different publishers. So without further ado, let’s get cracking!

The Advertising Dilemma
If you’re like me, you probably don’t even really notice the ads in your comics anymore. I give them maybe a cursory glance, say no more than a second unless it’s something interesting, and then continue on with my story. The only time it’s a problem is when it significantly impedes the flow of the story or the ad is in direct opposition to the emotional impact of the page.

There have been times when advertising has completely ruined some pivotal event in a story. The comic builds up to this awesome emotional climax and when you turn the page the first thing you see is a Skechers ad. Uncool. Really I wonder how much power editors have over where to place ads? Obviously they want to put them in spots where they’ll have the least impact on the narrative, which might mean that readers, not so engrossed in the story, may actually take more time to look at them. Oh man, this just got so much more complex!

A Brief Snapshot
Ok so let’s take quick look at the the amount and placement of ads in some recent comics. I only have access to a sample of my collection here at school but it should suffice to get an idea of how different publishers handle advertising. I’ve got eight books here and I looked at title, price, publisher, # of comic pages, and # of ad pages. I did not count the front and back covers as advertising, nor did I count letters from creators. I did count corporate newsletters as ads.

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth – The Pickens County Horror #1
Dark Horse
$3.50
24 pages of comic
4 pages of ads all at the end


Daredevil #10
Marvel
$2.99
21 pages of comic
11 pages of ads sprinkled throughout


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #8
$3.99
IDW
22 pages of comic
3 pages of ads at the end


Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #4
Archaia
$3.50
23 pages of comic
0 pages of ads


Scalped #57
DC/Vertigo
$2.99
20 pages of comic
12 pages of ads


The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger – The Way Station #4
Marvel
$3.99
32 pages of comic
0 pages of ads


Invincible #86
Image/Skybound
$2.99
20 pages of comic
6 pages of ads at the end


Fear Itself #7
Marvel
$4.99
40 pages of comic
25 pages of ads, almost all at the end and are made to be a part of the comic as a prelude to other comics spinning out of the event.

What Do You Notice?
So what’s interesting about this little snippet of the recent releases (and not so recent with Fear Itself)? Well firstly publishers use advertising differently. Marvel and DC sprinkle advertising throughout their monthly books. The smaller publishers (in this example Archaia, IDW, Image) usually place advertising at the end so that it doesn’t interfere with the story. Obviously in those cases editors and creators don’t have to worry about ads interrupting their narratives.

What’s really interesting is that Marvel doesn’t always follow one prescribed formula. Take their Dark Tower adaptation, not a single ad to be found! Whether that has to do with Stephen King or some crazy licensing agreements I don’t know, but I definitely appreciate the ad-free experience!

We also have our special Fear Itself event, which had very little advertising in the story proper, I think there were only 2 within the 40 page conclusion, and then 23 pages of “comic,” advertising books spinning out of the event. I can only assume that the editors didn’t want to interrupt this awesome finale and decided to keep the advertising to a minimum throughout the tale.

Right now I’m not quite prepared to carry out a detailed analysis of advertising in comics, I’d really like to, but alas I just don’t have the time. What I would like to say is that it seems like editors from the Big Two probably have to account for advertising interrupting the narrative. The real question is how does that affect the composition of the stories? How do they decide when are where to put the advertising to lessen its impact?

All questions for another day!