Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of your comic book series, The Long Con! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you share with us about the premise of the book?
Dylan Meconis: An apocalyptic event hits Southern California in the middle of Long Con –– the world’s longest and biggest comic con. All of the attendees, except for one alt-weekly reporter - Victor Lai, who stepped outside for a smoke break –– are trapped inside and presumed dead. Five years later, evidence surfaces that there may be other survivors, and Victor is sent back into the irradiated no man’s land to investigate. He makes two incredible discoveries: that his college pal comics pro, Dez Delaney, is still alive inside the convention center… and that the Con itself has kept going. It’s Galaxy Quest meets Mad Max!
Ben Coleman: We were shooting for the kind of tone you get from an Edgar Wright movie, where you can go from quippy banter to a genuine emotional exchange to suddenly everyone's drenched in blood. Even though our setting is post-apocalyptic, we didn't want to get bogged down in muddy earth tones and human misery. There's enough of that in our current pre-apocalyptic world.
BD: Dylan and Ben, what inspired you to tell this apocalyptic convention story, and what do you hope that readers will take away from the series?
DM: The original idea came to me at San Diego Comic-Con itself! Five days is a long time to be inside a big concrete exhibit hall under fluorescent lighting, sharing a bathroom sink with four different Harley Quinns, cutting through lines that are literally half a mile long to get to obscure panels attended by ten people... It’s really fun and really surreal and totally overstimulating. Just to entertain myself, I started to wonder what would happen if we were all stuck there indefinitely. What fandom alliances would form? Who would get eaten first? Where would the media guests hide? It was a goofy, dark little daydream, but one that really had potential.
For what I hope readers will take away… I hope that readers get to see themselves in this comic, because fandom is so much more diverse than it’s usually portrayed. And I hope they get to laugh in recognition of the wonderful things about convention culture, and cackle in recognition of the ridiculous and/or slightly dreadful things. And I hope it will encourage non-convention people to visit a show some day just so they can say, “Oh wow. They really weren’t kidding about all this.”
BC: The next time you're on a con floor, look at the people surrounding you. If the lights went out and the doors slammed shut, which one of those nerds are you going to band together with, and which ones will you ruthlessly grind beneath your fabulous cosplay boot? How will you survive? Trade? Diplomacy? MURDER? It's like a Rorschach test, only instead of ink blots, it's guys dressed as the character Rorschach. (You probably want to stay away from them when stuff goes down.)
BD: EA and M. Victoria, how did you come to be involved in this project, and what most intrigued you about the story?
EA Denich: I was contacted by Ari Yarwood, one of our editors, to ask if I’d be interested in the project. I knew it was something special after I saw the pitch book and Dylan’s character designs, as well as all of the detail put into the comic’s world. Also, it was an incredibly funny, laugh-out-loud script, and each issue just gets better as they go!
M. Victoria Robado: Same! I loved the concept right away.
BD: Did you have a specific vision in mind for the style of the art/color palette when you began the project, or do you feel that it evolved as you collaborated with the team?
EAD: I didn’t have any particular style in mind for the book—I tried to adapt Dylan’s designs in my own style, since I didn’t think they needed much! I do like to draw all manner of cutesy/comic/gritty/sexy stuff, so I try to put my own personal touch on every character design and goofy background gag. As I got more acquainted with the characters and setting, they really started to form a feel for the series on their own.
MV: Contrast is an important visual concept for the story, so I tried to come up with palettes that would work well with the story and artwork. I had references of the characters from the team, and I am always open to changes that would help bring their vision to life.
BD: How would you describe your shared creative process?
DM: It involves a whole lot of emails and a whole lot of shared Google documents! We basically have a shared group folder that contains all of the files and reference images and cheat sheets and script drafts. And at the start of each new issue, we have a group phone call to go over what’s in the script and what we really want to focus on or emphasize. Ben, EA, and I in particular talk to each other a lot the whole way through the process, and we’ve definitely developed into our own tiny society of catch phrases and jokes.
BC: Yeah, I would describe our process as VERY shared. Before this project, I didn't know Gmail would cap threads at 100 replies. Me and Dylan try to write stuff that we think EA would have fun drawing, and EA is very nice about accommodating our respective areas of intense detail-oriented pedantry, which sometimes overlap and sometimes don't. EA’s really great at expressing emotion through her characters, which means we can leave a lot unsaid in dialogue and still see it reflected on the page. We’ve definitely started writing scenes with that in mind as soon as she was on board.
EAD: Emails, a mountain of emails! I feel really lucky to work with Dylan and Ben. They are extremely sensitive to all of the workhorse elements of comics, but they also know how to keep me challenged, in a good way. Every issue of this book has me draw something I’ve never drawn before, and it’s really been an awesome learning experience. Communicating effectively in a team like this is invaluable and it’s been a really organic, fun process so far.
MV: Usually colorists are in their little corner doing the work, and I generally ask to read the script to know where the characters are and what happens, but for The Long Con the team sent me lovely coloring notes which made the process a lot easier on my end!
BD: What makes Oni Press the perfect home for The Long Con?
DM: Oni was definitely our first choice for this project. We were especially excited to work with Ari Yarwood and Robin Herrera, two amazing editors with a commitment to inclusivity and a first-person understanding of convention culture. Oni publishes a lot of work that may involve dark humor but has an ultimately positive and compassionate message. Also Ben and I both live in Portland, where Oni is based, and they have really good office snacks that they never remember to hide before we come over for a meeting.
BC: Robin and Ari have absolutely made this book what it is, and it's been a real pleasure to work with them. And they've also helped to assemble a real murderer's row of talent, including two amazing colorists M. Victoria Robado (volume 1) and Fred C. Stresing (volume 2), all-star letterer Aditya Bidikar, and designer Keith Wood, who was very patient while we batted around ideas for the logo (both me and Dylan are very particular about typefaces).
EAD: Our editors are just the best and we love ‘em. They really have been in our corner this whole time, making sure this book is great. I couldn’t imagine this book anywhere else.
BD: Do you have plans to attend upcoming convention, and where will our readers be able to find you?
DM: I will be stuck in Oregon toiling over the scripts for the second half of the story arc, but we’ll be throwing some big local events at shops here in Portland! Come join us at Bridge City Comics on July 27 for a signing of Issue #1, and at Books With Pictures on August 1st for “Tales from the Long Con,” a night of wild, true convention stories. Then, we’ll be turning up at the Oni booth for signings at Rose City Comic Con in September!
BC: Yeah, managing a book launch about an impractically large convention AND attending an impractically large convention at the same time seemed like a tall order to me, so I am also Portland-bound. But I'm confident "Tales from the Long Con" will capture all the highs and lows of convention life into a single evening of cathartic laughter and projected embarrassment. And the Bridge City signing will have beer!
EAD: I’ll also be attending the signing at Rose City, hopefully!
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
DM: Right now, I’m writing and drawing Queen of the Sea, a big historical fantasy graphic novel for readers ages 10-14. You can look for it in Spring 2019 from Walker Books/Candlewick Press!
BC: You can usually find me in the film section of the Portland Mercury, where I review movies that are either very strange or have The Rock in them. I'm also working on a couple of longer-term articles about interactive and installation-based storytelling, which you should hopefully be able to read about in the fall.
EAD: I’ve got a planned graphic novel upcoming with Iron Circus Comics, as well as various planned personal comic projects.
MV: My main project at the moment is writing and drawing the second season of #Blessed for Webtoons! (Full of dating apps, deities, and questionable decisions.)
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about The Long Con and your other work?
DM: You can find out more at www.longconcomic.com, on Facebook at @longconcomic, or stayed tuned for more announcements from @OniPress! You can find me online at www.dylanmeconis.com and on Twitter as @dmeconis.
BC: What Dylan said! Except for the part where she said her Twitter handle. Replace that with my Twitter handle, which is @OhColeman.
EAD: The best place to find me online is Twitter (@ghostgreeen) and tumblr (ghostgreen.tumblr.com)
MV: I spend my days on Instagram (@shourimajo), and sometimes on Twitter (@shourimajo), as well.