Saturday, March 12, 2005

Bob Corby interview

What inspired the decision last year to move SPACE to its current location?
There were a number of reasons we decided to move last year. At the old venue we had parking problem, food vendors who disappeared and there was nobody available if problems occurred.
How has the new location helped (or hurt--if at all) the show?
The new venue at the Holiday Inn East I70 greatly improved accessibility to the show. There is free parking and also a shuttle bus from the airport. There’s a restaurant on site. Ehibitors and guests can stay at the hotel and don’t need to wander around town. Also financially it worked out to be a better deal. The only down side is that we had to sacrifice space. The previous venue held over 140 eight-foot exhibitor tables. The new one holds only about 120 six-foot tables
You said in a recent e-mail that SPACE is "financially solvent"-- would you care to elaborate: are you breaking even? Turning a profit?
2 out of the 5 years of its existence SPACE has made a minor profit. The other 3 year it lost a few hundred dollars each year. Essentially it pays for itself, which is my version of “financially solvent”. This is unlike my other comic projects, which are always in the red.
How many people attended the con last year? Do you feel the new location helped?
There were about 500 people there last year. We never seem to get a good head count at the door. I think the new location did improve attendance.
Are expecting more this year? What are you doing to increase turnout and/or public awareness of the show?
I think we will have more regular attendees but there may be less over all because we had a lot of people show up to see Dave Sim and Gerhard because Cerebus ended the month before SPACE last year.
How many exhibitors do you have lined up for this year?
We have sold about 80 exhibitor tables so far. I expect we will sell out at about 120 tables. There are 125 exhibitor names on the website right now.
Approximately what percentage of exhibitors is returning from past shows and what percentage of them are first timers?
So far this year 75 percent of the exhibitors are returning exhibitors. Our exhibitors have always been very loyal to the show and I really appreciate it.
Okay, so I understand this year you have some events planned for Sunday, is that right? What are they? Why did you decide to have a 2nd day?
The events planned for Sunday morning are workshops for small press publishers. This was the idea of brought up to me by Dale Martin. Dale and APA-5 were going to come up with some programs for self-publishers. We might also do the Cartoon Carnival on Sunday so some of the other exhibitors can attend and not be tied up at their tables.
OK, I know we covered this the last time I wrote an article about SPACE, but why did you decide to put on your own small press comics convention?
The inspiration for SPACE was the Spirits of Independents shows back in 1995. They were great. I found more comic titles I loved and actually sold more of my own comics at those shows than any other conventions.
How did Dave Sim get involved?
When I decided to do SPACE which was to be a successor to the long departed Columbus Spirits show I contacted Dave about being a part of it. He declined the first year stating that he wasn’t doing any more conventions and just wanted to concentrate on completing Cerebus. He was about 4 years from completing his 26-year task. The second year I contacted him again just to keep him informed. He called me and said he was interested in coming because he wanted to start the Day Prize there.
How has Sim's involvement helped the show?
Dave involvement did help SPACE a good deal. The first year attendance was dismal. I only started arrangements for the second year because most of the exhibitors were willing to try it again. I was going though the motions but was pretty sure that the result would be the same and I’d call it quits after the second flop. Then I got the call from Dave and we drew a lot more people and I think the show became credible. Last year with Cerebus ending the month before SPACE we drew even more people.
Sim has been quite a controversial figure in the comics community, especially his views on feminism. So, has his involvement with SPACE hurt the show at all?
There are some people who will not attend because of Dave’s presence at the show. That’s their decision to make. I’m sure Dave would be willing to debate with anyone that shows up.
Personally, I think he's nuts: What do you think of Dave's more controversial opinions?(you really don't have to answer this one if you don't want to?)
I don’t agree with a lot of Dave’s opinions. Dave is very conservative. I have a slight liberal streak. What I admire about Dave is his honesty. He’s not trying to be popular. He just says what he thinks even if that makes a lot of people hate him. He lost a good chunk of his readership when he started the anti-feminism thing. The first year he was down for SPACE I asked him straight out if it was just “showmanship” and if he was trying to be controversial just to get the attention. He said no. He has always been very gratuitous to everybody I’ve seen him in contact with so whatever his thoughts he treats everyone well.
What is the Day Prize? (Yeah, I know I know--but I want your words)
The Day Prize or more precisely The Howard Eugene Day Memorial Award is Dave Sim’s tribute to his comics mentor, Gene Day, best know for his work on Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu and his own Dark Fantasy. The prize consists of a $500.00 cash prize and a plaque. It’s awarded to one of the entries Dave collects at SPACE each year. Past winners include “Faith: A Fable” by Bill Knapp, “Misa” by Tom Williams and “Askari Hodari” by Glenn Brewer.
SPACE has grown and changed quite a bit in just six years: Has it turned it into what you envisioned it as? Or is it not quite there yet? Or has it become something you hadn't really foreseen?
SPACE has grown a little larger than I first envisioned it. It also has become something I hadn’t envisioned. The work that shows up at SPACE and other small press shows is not part of the general public’s perception of comics. I think it’s a great opportunity to start changing that perception and show people the possibilities of the medium. That idea has given me a sense of a mission that wasn’t there at the beginning. Hell, I was just trying to sell some of my comics.
What do you see in the future for SPACE?
I would like to see it grow and bring more people in. I’d also like it to stay rooted in the small press. I’d like to continue to see things there you can’t buy at your neighborhood corporate chain store.
I want to ask a few questions about Oh! Comics.
Why have you decided to put the book "on hiatus"?
The reasons are mostly financial. Last year was a pretty bad year for me and Oh,Comics! Is getting more expensive to produce and doesn’t sell well.
Is this a permanent condition?
I hope not. My financial situation should be improving in the next few years.
Tell us about the history of Oh! Comics:What is it? How long had you been doing it? How many issues?
Oh,Comics! started as a charity book at the Mid-Ohio Con back in 1988. The name comes from Ohio Comics because it was originally intended to only have work by people from Ohio. In the second year I couldn’t find a charity that was interested in working with us so it became an ad financed give away book for a few years. That never really paid the printing bills and in the mid-90’s the bottom fell out of the comic shop business where most of my ads were generated so it became a regular comic with free ads for the contributors. There are 17 issues in print 1 though 15 and also issues 8-1/2 and 10-1/2.
Did you consider going back to the digest format at all?
I really don’t want to move backwards with it. Besides you can’t fold a 150 page digest.

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