Peter Tatara works for New York Comic-Con overseeing all the various panels, screenings, special events, and other goings-on at the big show. He does similar work for the New York Anime Festival, C2E2, and the Star Wars Celebration. In preparation for this week’s New York Comic-Con, we asked him our Behind the Scenese questions to get to know him a little better.
Do you remember your first comic book or graphic novel?
Actually, yes, I think. My first comic was an issue of Beetlejuice. My father bought it for me at the start of a family road trip. An auspicious start, I know. In my teenage years, though, I got bit by the comics bug hard and visited my local drug store weekly to see what they had on their rack next to wrestling mags and romance novels. I've got the entire run of Generation X, which was my favorite book growing up, although I wholeheartedly disagree with the conclusion of the Penance storyline. During this period, I read most of the ’90s Deadpool series, and then eclectic stuff ranging from Gargoyles to Gen 13.
What do you love about the graphic novel as a format for storytelling?
The storytelling. (Granted, storytelling may not have been what drew me to Gen 13.) What draws me to comics, graphic novels, and animation is its ability to tell stories of any scope or scale, stories impossible in any other medium. Be it on the level of a molecule to something spanning galaxies, comics are a canvas whose only limitation is imagination. And, yet, as expansive as they can be, my favorite talents are the ones who ground the fantastic in a very immediate sense of the real. It's not about the capes and tights. It's about who is inside them. Generation X, for example, was a book about new, young, afraid, teenage mutants growing up. Here I was, reading it as a teenager as well, relating to a lot of the same issues and concerns. Regardless of the razor-sharp skin, sonic booms, and plasma sparkles, there was something there very human I could connect to.
Whose work do you admire?
Jeff Smith. Jeff was a Guest of Honor at C2E2 last year, and I learned a lot about the man prior to the show. I fell in love with what he's done and how he's done it, and I bought Bone immediately after. It's next to my bed now. As I just said, my favorite talents are the ones who ground the fantastic in a very immediate sense of the real, and Jeff Smith is a sterling example of this. Other names I very much admire—in no particular order—Greg Pak, J. Michael Straczynski, Kaiji Kawaguchi, J. Scott Campbell, Mark Millar, David Petersen, Ben Templesmith, Misako Takashima, CLAMP, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Josh Elder, Tatsuya Ishida, Josh Breidbart, and Gabe & Tycho.
Who do you read outside of the graphic novel format?
Hideyuki Kikuchi and Tony Bourdain are the two non-comics names I read most regularly. I've read a little Gary Vaynerchuk and very much want to read more.
How many graphic novels do you read a month? How many of those are manga?
Ha! The sad thing is that since growing up, I've never been able to read as many comics and manga as I had in my youth. Even with working on New York Comic Con, I can't find the time to submerge myself into books the way I used to. I'll—in my personal time—read three to four graphic novels a month, admittedly skewing more manga right now than Western comics. Right now, I'm reading through Dororo, Bleach, and Mouse Guard. And, as I mentioned already, Bone is next to my bed—almost done.
How did you first get involved in the field professionally?
I got my start interning at a manga and anime company—Central Park Media—during college, which turned into a fulltime position at graduation. I spent a year at CPM, which was both a general and niche business boot camp. I went to the first New York Comic Con, too, through CPM, exhibiting there. After CPM, I had a few other jobs, ranging from video games to a T-shirt business, but it was threads and a recommendation from CPM that ultimately led me back to the New York Comic Con folks, and I've been involved now on their team for close to four years.
What kind of reaction do you get when you tell people what you do?
"Can I get free tickets?" It's interesting. If it's someone who's a fan, it's either asking for tickets or recommending a guest. If it's from someone not familiar with the show or graphic novels, they kind of scratch their head and ask what it's about. It's shocking that with as large of a community of graphic novel readers as there are, with as many strides as we think we've taken, there's a whole ocean of new readers out there who still haven't been exposed to comics. Going back to existing fans, if I've got a ticket in my pocket, it's theirs. To their guest recommendations, it's almost always a name like Kevin Smith, Grant Morrison, Tite Kubo, or Masashi Kishimoto. And, going behind the curtain for a bit, these are almost always the first four names we go after for a show. We've had Kevin and Grant at New York Comic Con, and we'd love to have them back. To Kubo-san and Kishimoto-san, we've never had them at our events, but we go after them every year. And, as I trust they're both reading this, we'd love to have you. Seriously. Let's chat about 2011.
Do you collect comics? What is the most valuable piece of art, graphic novel, or comic book in your collection?
Looking at what I read and what I collect, it's not so much because of resale value, but instead because of intrinsic, emotional value. Looking at the pieces that are the most unique or meaningful to me, they'd be a Yoshitaka Amano sketch, signed copy of the first Vampire Hunter D novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi, an animation cells from the original Vampire Hunter D film, Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Yoroiden Samurai Troopers, and the last episode of Dragon Ball GT. And a book signed by Alan Alda. (One of my childhood goals until last year was meeting the man.)
Is there something you covet adding to your collection?
In general, I need to get caught up with all of the Vampire Hunter D novel series and Jeff Smith's Rasl. Covet? I saw a first edition of The Great Gatsby at Westsider Books last week, and I'm trying to justify the purchase. Also, one of the WWII Dalek figures from the new season of Doctor Who.