"Trickster is amazing. ... It has replaced the 40th floor Hyatt bar."

That was the endorsement made by Bob Schreck of Legendary Comics at a round table discussion at Trickster in San Diego on Thursday.

For years the 40th floor bar at the Manchester Grand Hyatt was the essential after-hours spot for anyone looking to network with publishers, editors and creators. It was a place where aspiring and upcoming creators could introduce themselves to their peers in a relaxed setting away from the hurlyburly of the con floor. But in recent years the convention became too big -- and the industry too dispersed across the city's hotels and bars -- for the Hyatt to hold on to its role as a networking hub. No single location has replaced it, but if Schreck is to be believed that role may now be taken by Trickster, the pop-up store and workshop space that has become the cornerstone of Comic-Con's emerging fringe.Schreck, the editor-in-chief of Legendary and a former editor at Dark Horse, Oni Press and DC Comics, was speaking at a symposium about plot construction with Pixar story artist Scott Morse, Earth 2 writer James Robinson, Dark Horse editor Scott Allie and Abrams Comic Arts editor Sheila Keenan. The two-hour discussion covered a lot of extra ground, but the audience of aspiring writers and storytellers had an obvious interested in advice on breaking in to the industry.

For Schreck, the key advice was: "Come up and talk to people and don't be a wallflower." Breaking in to the comic industry can feel like a daunting prospect, but the panelists agreed that face-to-face engagement is crucial to an industry that depends on networking to grow. As Schreck observed, "There are only a few people who don't want more people in the pool."

In a sense, Trickster not only replaces the Hyatt bar but improves upon it. At the Hyatt, up-and-comers habitually pitched themselves at industry insiders but there was no explicit understanding that they should. At Trickster, you're expected to introduce yourself. Scott Morse, who organized the event with Ted Mathot and Anita Coulter, observed, "I wanted to do this because I've found my career has gotten to where it is because I've made friends."

Now in its second year, Trickster has moved to larger premises at Prosper gastro-pub at 795 J Street, and now boasts a rooftop patio offering a view of Petco Park (where zombies will be rampaging at the Walking Dead event later this weekend). In addition to writing symposia and artist workshops, Trickster has a shop offering beautiful prints and hard-to-find art books. I was especially taken by the books from illustrators Victoria Ying, Brittney Lee and David Pimintel, and the "Monsters" poster book from the great Michael Golden.

A permanent Trickster location will open in the coming year in Berkeley, California, and there are plans to bring Trickster pop-ups to other shows. If you're at San Diego Comic-Con and want more information on Trickster events, visit the official website.

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