This Saturday, the New York City comics community descends onto a gathering that is proudly proclaiming itself the "smallest Comic-Book Convention ever in the smallest comics store in the world." ProntoCon, hosted by Pronto Comics publishing and the Carmine St. Comics store & studio, will serve as a convention and community celebration for NYC's DIY independent comic book creators.
Pursuing a career in comic book publishing is a very risky dream, due to both comic books' niche appeal in the mainstream and with the ongoing struggles of the printing industry. Pronto Comics approaches the craft with a very specific vision: as a non-profit workshop that helps creators of all experience levels learn how to navigate the tricky world of self-publishing. And this weekend, many artists will sell their wares in a convention that is markedly different from the aggressive consumer trade show that is the Javitz Center's NY Comic-Con.
We spoke with Patrick J. Reilly, the Managing Editor (and frequent writer) of Pronto Comics in anticipation of ProntoCon. If you're looking to dip your toes into a world of comics away from Batman and Spider-Man, are looking to pursue your own artistic comic dreams, or just want to support the litany of independent artists hiding out in every crevice of New York City, Reilly has six reasons why you should try out ProntoCon.
1. Carmine St. Comics Is Every NYC Cartoonist's Friend
Reilly: It's real accommodating to indie publishers and a lot of independent writers and artists. Every day they have a writer or artist in the window of the store, and it's a work studio. I thought this was the place to do this mini-con and showcase the people who are working on their own stuff, and now they get to sell it and showcase it here.
2. This is the Networking Event For NYC Cartoonists
Reilly: A lot of stores in the city don't have a sense of community or family. The two owners know their customers -- and they've also done that with the comic book artist community. Now there's a lot of writers and artists not affiliated Pronto from around the city that come in and can sell their comics here, promote, do signings here...
I've never done anything like this and neither has Jon Gorga (co-owner of Carmine); we worked on this and produced it together. We were worried if it would require unbelievable crazy planning, but at the end of the day it's about finding people who are willing to sit down and draw all day -- which isn't hard -- and have their own work. It's getting people together who like dealing with people; a lot of comic book creators are a solo job. You're by yourself writing a script or doing art. Maybe you get to work with one other person, but you never get that sense of "we're all together in this." The community of comic books is so important to creating a con.
3. It's Bringing Comics To The Heart of the Village
Reilly: Greenwich Village is great because this part is still so old, it's like 1960s, "Bob Dylan walking down the street." There's the House of Oldies record shop across the street, Carmine St. Guitars, we're right next to Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books, which is a Village staple. There's a great sense of history of old New York here.
4. Comics Are For Kids Again (and Everyone Else)!
Reilly: I hope kids come to this; I got into comics because I wanted to be a children's writer, it's what I grew up on. We've got a lot of kids' authors and artists: Chris Giarusso of "G-Man," The Janimal of "Pogi Boy," Tom Gambino of "World of Monsters." I know they're doing cheap stuff, so I'm excited to see what the kids think.
Pronto isn't just making comics for kids, it's comics in general. We want to help support as many different people as possible, no matter what their dream is, whether you want to do kids' comics, horror comics, or if you want to do crazy '90s action comics -- which I don't know anyone who would want to do that. But there's got to be one guy out there that wants to. It's helping people find their voice, so that one day they can go out to Marvel or DC, and say "I know what works."
5. It's a Steal
Reilly: We always want Pronto Comics to be inexpensive. You're buying an independent comic from someone you've probably never heard of; it might be good, it might be bad. My own comic, "Comically Absurd Comics" has always just been two dollars; I think it's worth more, but I know people will try it for two dollars. Now you have "Batman" comics where every fourth issue is $6.99, which is insane. I see people putting out independent comics, and they jack up the price to eight dollars because printing is hard. You can't start high and expect people to go high with you at all times; you have to start low and work your way up. At Pronto we've always been about good, cheap books that people can enjoy. We're not getting the most money out of it, but we hope people are getting the most for their book.
6. 2014 Is a Big Year For Pronto in NYC
Reilly: We're going to be holding our fourth Phrases to Pages; we pair up artists and writers in a competition setting, we give them a phrase, and they do an entire one page comic in forty minutes. Those have been really successful. We're also doing as many cons as possible; at least until June, we have one convention every other week to go to. Hopefully by August, we'll have our first trade out for one our books, "Cross." I love where we're going with everything; we have great artists and writers working above and beyond what you could ask anyone to do. I hope this next year, we can do an even bigger con.
Pronto is going to celebrate its fifth anniversary in May, and we've come so far from just a bunch of guys that met in a pizza place (Editor: Pronto Pizza on 41st, natch) to a not-for-profit company that we have at least forty books out. We have artists and writers from Scotland to Hawaii to Italy, and I want to keep running in the same direction.
ProntoCon will be held at Carmine St. Comics on Saturday, January 25, at 34 Carmine St. in New York City. The event runs from 12pm to 6pm and is FREE to the public. Get more info, on the event's Facebook page.
To support Pronto Comics, visit ProntoComics.com