12.12.2005

I Need A Release

Originally published in Savant Magazine.

"Kleidon's Lounge? Dude, that place is a dive."

That was the self-proclaimed phrase that almost prevented me from witnessing something very innovative. A week later, I walked into Kleidon's, with a date no less, in one of the dirtiest parts of downtown San Jose. It's next to the bus station, for God's sake. It's about two blocks off the main drag, in an old brick building that was never intended to be a bar. You're surely asking what the hell this article is about and if I'm going to ramble on for five paragraphs before somehow relating it to comics. Well, get ready for the reason I was there: A comic book release party.

Wait, I meant a Comic Book Release Party!

A couple friends of mine, Tim Goodyear and Mike Allen, are the creative madmen behind a title called Garish Zow Comics from Hidden Agenda Press. It's an anthology mini-comic; the second issue was produced just in time for sale at the San Diego Comic-Con. It's a quarterly book, done for the major shows: San Diego, the Alternative Press Expo (APE), the Small Press Expo (SPX), and San Francisco's WonderCon. I'll refrain from a full blown review - it's just something you'll have to discover on your own. But let me whet your appetite: a hand-silk-screened cover designed by Ryan Sook, 64 pages, color and black & white, a David Choe story, humor, drama, a Western, and two additional mini-comics located in pockets on the front and back inside covers.

But back to the concept.

You've seen release parties. The scene in High Fidelity, where they have the record release party and Jack Black's character sings Let's Get It On by Marvin Gaye? That's what I'm talking about.

My date and I pull up around 10:30 on a Friday night and find a parking spot right out front. I make eye contact with the doorman and chirp the alarm on the Bimmer, he checks our ID's, stamps our hands, and already I can feel the music pounding against my chest. We walk in and I see Mike across the room right away, he nods at me and gives me a smirk. It must be going well. Perhaps they've proven all the naysayers wrong, that they could take a cue from the music industry and really make this work.

Either that, or he's a little buzzed.

There's about 20 people crowded around a 3x5 table. I see the Hidden Agenda Press book dumps with copies of Garish Zow #2 and a few copies of the old Garish Zow #1 for sale. There's a limited-edition silk-screened poster advertising the release party, some miscellaneous past offerings from Hidden Agenda; there's even copies of the mini-comic I did with Tim, The Mercy Killing. My date looks up and smiles. "Hey, you're famous," she says half-mockingly and half proud.

I see Tim schmoozing with the clientele and realize we're going to be there a while, so I head toward the bar. Drinks in hand, we dive into the melee of people around the booth. I bump into Tim and he smiles huge. There's dozens of conversations going on, wives, girlfriends, customers I recognize from the store we shop at, artists and inkers, and there's actually a line forming in front of the table of people waiting to make purchases.

In the middle of a nightclub.

Mike and Tim pulled me outside where we could actually talk, we discussed the next issue and some scripts I had submitted, we generally hung out and had a great time. He introduced me to a guy who reads the same books I do and a guy who just bought out an existing shop that isn't so good and is apparently going to transform it. As we stood outside, the place was getting packed. Soon we couldn't tell who was there for the comics and who was just there. Familiar faces mixed with random ones. The girls who were clubbing and just wanted to dance bumped into the inker who was there supporting his industry friends. I bought two copies of #2 and one of the limited edition posters before they were all gone, made a round of goodbyes, and contentedly headed out.

Driving home with the top down, I thought about what a great idea this was. For self-publishers, it's a way to immediately break out of an existing mold and reach new people. The change of venue allows us to make it a "big deal" and the world seemed to acknowledge this. A new offering into our collective creative medium became an event.

I could imagine an established company, someone like Oni Press for the sake of argument, doing just such a thing. There's always a friend of a friend who works in a bar or club or hotel who could arrange such an event. Imagine the party for the release of each new issue of Queen & Country, Local, or Polly & The Pirates.

It was social, it was fun, it was creative, it was hip, it allowed industry networking, it was a chance to get out of the confines of a comic shop or convention and potentially reach non-comic readers. It was a true cultural event.

It was the best things about the industry all rolled into one.

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