I recently read a novel written by an old college acquaintance of mine who's done rather well for himself in the world of science fiction and fantasy. In the foreward of the book he thanked his writers group, the same writers group I was a member of many years ago. For any of you not familiar with the concept of a writers group, the basic idea is that a group of writers band together, meet regularly — whether in person or online — and critique each others work. If all of the writers in the group are of a similar skill level, if all are producing regular amounts of work, and if all are participating in the critique sessions — both giving as well as receiving, then the experience can be a very rewarding one. Of course, if the above conditions aren't met — different skill levels, some producing others not, varying levels of participation in critiques — then it's at best a waste of time and at worst a recipe for frustration. But when a writers group is working, really working, then every one participating will see an improvement in the quality of their work, sometimes a dramatic improvement.
So I finally carved out a couple of hours last week to sit down and read T. Campbell's History of Webcomics. I knew the book had been the subject of some controversy. Some had postulated that writing the history of something that was less than a decade old seemed a bit superfluous and that perhaps one should wait until a bit more history has occurred before the history is written.
I might have been inclined to agree with that supposition had I not written an article for Sketch magazine a year or so back detailing my quest to uncover the indentity of the first Photoshop colored comic book. It turned out to be a surprisingly difficult task even though it was certainly a comic published sometime in the early 1990s. It's undeniable that Adobe Photoshop has ushered in a new era in both comics production and comics aesthetics, yet no one (at least no one I was able to find) had bothered to document when exactly this phenomenon began.
So this time last week I was airport hopping, returning from my first manga/anime convention. At least as a guest, that is. I've played the role of "cool uncle" by taking my teenage niece (a genuine manga chic) to a few local, one-day manga/anime shows, but this — A-Kon in Dallas, TX. — was my first stint as a name-in-the-program, seated-in-the-artists-alley guest. Ka-Blam, my digital printing business, had created some materials for the convention and they were kind enough to offer us a table at the show.