Are these artists on your radar? Darkroom contributor Carrie Wood highlights several artists to watch from Baltimore Comic-Con 2013. (Feel free to suggest artists in the comments that we should check out.)
Once the doors to the convention center opened and the line that stretched all the way around the building started to file in, Baltimore Comic-Con was officially underway.
This year, Baltimore Comic-Con celebrated its 14th year — the brainchild of Cards, Comics and Collectibles owner Marc Nathan.
The weekend’s events were highlighted by celebrity appearances from Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes aka Jay and Silent Bob and comic book deals – imagine bins upon bins of comics labeled “Just $1!” – but it was the Artist Alley that drew the most attention.
Comic fans crammed tables trying to get their favorite issues signed by artists or shake hands with someone they admired. Aisles full of people were also often jammed with attendees trying to get a photo with their favorite costumed hero. For some, this was new; but for many, this was old hat.
This year’s Artist Alley featured some 400 artists, including big names like Frank Cho of “Savage Wolverine” and Natasha Allegri, a storyboard artist for “Adventure Time.” It also featured many unknown and local talents. Here are a few artists to keep on your radar.
Bill McKay was just one of the many local Maryland artists who turned out for the convention. And it’s no surprise he’s from the area since many of his comics are peppered with local references and Maryland flags. Originally from Largo, McKay’s first show was Baltimore Comic-Con in 2010.
CW: What are you currently working on?
BM: I’m currently working on “Night of the 80’s Undead” for Action Lab’s “Danger Zone” imprint, which is their mature imprint. They just launched “80’s Undead,” which is a shameless homage to 80’s horror films. It’s a really fun book.
CW: How did you get into comic illustration?
BM: I’ve been drawing comics since my grade school days. That’s what I would do instead of paying attention in class. I’ve always been drawing comics. I did get away from that for a while, but I happened to meet a guy who was starting a book right around the time I was getting out of a job I had been in for 10 years, and I got into comics with him in 2010, and I’ve been working in comics ever since.
CW: I see you have some sketches of covers for “X-Men” and “The Walking Dead” here. Have you done cover art for other labels in the past?
BM: These are just sketch covers. I work on a lot of independent books, and at a big show like this, sometimes I can get killed because I don’t have recognizable characters. If people don’t see the things that they know, they just keep walking. I am a fan of “The Walking Dead” and I am a fan of “X-Men,” but these are just things that I’ve done to help kind of finance the show for myself, so that I can then show off my own work, which is more dear to my heart.
CW: You definitely have a local flavor to a lot of your art – do you try to add local references to your comic book work?
BM: Pretty much all of my covers have references to Baltimore, Maryland, D.C., and the Washington Capitals. I’m a big Caps fan. I don’t know why, I just did it a few years ago and it’s something I’ve continued to do since then.
CW: Anything else you’d like to add?
BM: Please check out Action Lab and their “Danger Zone” imprint. They’ve got a lot of great titles coming out. And be sure to check out “Night of the 80’s Undead,” which is just fun and not to be taken seriously at all – and you can find all of this stuff at your bookstore or through Action Lab’s website.
Originally from Singapore, Nicky Soh came to the United States to study at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Georgia. After finishing his bachelor’s degree, he continues to study there to complete his master’s. Though Soh has been very much into Japanese manga – and there’s a clear influence of that style in his work – he’s looking to get a little more mainstream with his art.
CW: Tell me what brought you to Baltimore this year.
NS: This is my second Baltimore Comic-Con. Last year, I was here with the Mike Wieringo Scholarship – he passed away, but he was a very talented artist, and his brother created a scholarship in his name at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I received the scholarship last year, so I was brought in as a guest artist, and it worked out really well. We were tabling last year, and it was pretty awesome, so we came back.
CW: Do you have any interesting past Comic-con stories?
NS: Last year, there was this guy who came over and really wanted a commission from me, but couldn’t find me again. And then we went to a convention later in the year, and this guy, who was from Baltimore, found me again there. He was like ‘Oh wow, I’ve been looking all over for you!’ He brought a picture of his dog, and he asked me to draw it, and of course I said yes. He really liked it. That was one of the most memorable convention sketches I’ve done.
CW: Are you looking to be published under one of the major comic book labels at some point?
NS: It really depends on how everything goes. At SCAD’s comics program, they bring in editors, and we get to talk to a lot of them. Right now, I’m more into indie comics, and I’m creating my own stuff – hopefully someday I’ll get published, though!
Soh’s portfolio can be found online at NickySoh.com.
Baltimore Comic-Con was a homecoming for some artists, including Dominike Stanton. Stanton currently lives in Los Angeles, but is originally from Baltimore and has been on the convention circuit for the last five years. Any fan walking by his table could probably tell he’s a Baltimore guy at heart, as he was decked head-to-toe in Ravens gear. Though he’s currently working in animation, it was clear he had a great love for comic books.
CW: Why did you decide to get into the comic industry?
DS: When I was younger, I loved comics. I used to read a lot of “X-Men” and Spiderman was one of my favorite heroes. I eventually realized that I knew how to draw, so I just kind of decided that this was what I wanted to do.
CW: What are you currently working on?
DS: Right now, nothing comic-wise. I just finished a run doing covers for “Fanboys vs. Zombies.” I’m actually the lead character designer for a new show coming out next year called “Chosen.”
CW: Is there any particular milestone you’re looking to achieve in the comic book world?
DS: I’ve done work for Marvel, and I would love to continue to do work for Marvel if that opportunity was ever given to me. But right now, I’m kind of comfortable working in animation.
CW: Do you prefer the animation world over comics?
DS: I’m definitely a storyteller at heart, and I would take comics over animation any day. That being said, doing character design for animation is a lot of fun.
CW: What’s your personal favorite work that you’ve done?
DS: Definitely “Deadpool.” I worked on an 11-page short for “Deadpool Family,” and that was probably the most fun I’ve ever had.
You can find Stanton’s work online at DrummerBoyDomo.Deviantart.com, or follow him on Twitter at @domostanton.
While many comic fans will shell out a few bucks at their local store for the latest issue of their favorite story, many more search the Internet instead. The webcomic market is incredibly vast, and has spawned major hits like “Penny Arcade.” Baltimore native Kata Kane has been working on her own webcomic series “Altar Girl” for the last several years and was at Comic-Con showing off her work.
CW: Tell me a little bit about yourself – how did you get into comics in the first place?
KK: I always liked comics from a young age, but I think what really did it for me was when I started watching “Sailor Moon.” Once I found out that it was originally a comic – or Manga – I really thought that was a style I really liked, so I gravitated towards that. When I first started drawing, I was just tracing “Sailor Moon” panels. From there, I developed my own style, but I’ve been very influenced by the shoujo (girl’s) manga style.
CW: Is this your first time at Baltimore Comic-Con?
KK: This is my first time doing a table, but I’ve been here before as a fan.
CW: Why did you set out to start “Altar Girl”?
KK: I had always wanted to be an author and an illustrator. When I discovered comics I realized that it was the perfect medium for me to use. I started doing comics in high school, and I eventually developed a bigger story that I wanted to get out there. The easiest way to do that as a high school student was to put it online. That was more than 10 years ago. Now I’m coming back to revisit it.
CW: Is it difficult at all to stand out online, given how vast the selection of webcomics is these days?
KK: Definitely. It’s hard, because there’s so much out there. You want to have your own space, but you kind of have to put yourself out on other websites in order to get noticed. You have to be in a bunch of places all at once, and do social media as much as you can.
CW: Tell me how Baltimore Comic-Con has been for you this year, for your first time at a table.
KK: It’s been good. There’s a lot of people here. It’s really nice to see everybody dressed up, and to see them dressed as someone you’ve drawn before. It’s fun to talk about what comics people are into.
CW: Are you intending to someday publish your work in print form?
KK: I would like to get my work in print format, and I think the first thing I’m going to try and do is self-publish. I still want to offer my comics for free online, but I would like to have a physical copy. A lot of people do that now – and people will pay for the book version because they want to support the artist, even if you still offer your work for free online.
To check out Kane’s work or to read “Altar Girl,” you can visit Altar-Girl.com.
Marvel and DC are clearly the two biggest names in the comic book industry, but other publishers often produce high-quality work. This includes independent publishers, like GCP Comics, which is located in Bel Air, Md. Nathan Getz, a recent MICA graduate and a six-year Comic-Con attendee, is currently an illustrator for GCP and was at Comic-Con showcasing two new stories.
CW: How does this year stack up against past Comic-Cons?
NG: The crowd seems a lot bigger than the past couple of years, and that’s with a couple of the big guests canceling, so that’s pretty good.
CW: Do you have any crazy stories from past years?
NG: I plead the fifth!
CW: Tell me a little bit about GCP comics and what they’re about.
NG: We just started two new stores. One is “Jack Rider” written by Mike Hopkins. It’s a sci-fi western; basically, he’s on a mission, and he gets taken out, and he’s gotta go back out there and set things right. The other is “The Patrol,” which is Armageddon-ish. The next Ice Age happens, and it’s this tale of survival for the humans in this perpetual winter.
CW: How long are these series going to run?
NG: We’re actually starting Kickstarter campaigns for both “Jack Rider” and “The Patrol” in the next month or so. We’ll have updates on the GCP comics Facebook page. We’re going to try and run them and turn them into continuing stories.
CW: Are you comfortable with GCP or are you looking to move on from there?
NG: I am always looking for the next move. I’m always trying to make comics and draw. So whatever’s paying the bills, I’ll go with that.
CW: What is your favorite thing to draw – is it one of your own characters, or something else?
NG: Women, actually. It doesn’t matter what kind or what size. I love women, and drawing comic women.
CW: How are you enjoying Baltimore Comic-Con so far?
NG: I love it, it’s my favorite show. It’s a comic show. It’s not San Diego, it’s not New York – they don’t have all of the celebrities and all the extra BS – it’s comics. It stays very true to that. It’s awesome.
To check out “Jack Rider” or “The Patrol,” visit gcpcomics.blogspot.com, or if you’d like to see Getz’s portfolio, that can be found at NategetzIllustration.com.
While many artists focus on their original characters and original storylines, sometimes derivative works can be just as fun. Husband-and-wife team Rod and Leanne Hannah have been working on their webcomic “Blue Milk Special” for the last four years. The “Star Wars” parody has since been translated into five different languages. The pair from southern Maryland split comic responsibilities – Rod writes, Leanne illustrates. These days, they’re working on getting their original works more attention as well.
CW: Tell me a little bit about “Blue Milk Special.”
RH: It’s a parody of “Star Wars,” scene-by-scene. We play on outtakes of the characters. Princess Leia is more like Carrie Fisher, and she had a lot of vices. Our version of Leia also has those vices – she’s a big smoker. Vader’s actor was a big caffeine addict, so Vader is always seen with a coffee mug. He’s also a “Star Trek” fan, so there’s the Federation logo on his mug, which might seem out of place. George Lucas is a character, too, and he’ll interfere with the storyline. We update it all the time, and it’s free to read online.
CW: Are there plans at all to put this in print?
RH: Not at all – we operate under Fair Use laws, so we aren’t profiting from this at all. “Blue Milk Special” did allow Leanne and I to work together as a husband-and-wife team. Now we’re working on getting our original work called “Once Upon a Caper” going a little bit.
CW: Tell me a little more about “Once Upon a Caper.”
RH: It’s about a little girl who, once she turns 11, she gets superpowers. But with that, she also gained immortality, so she’s stuck as an 11-year-old girl. She sees it as a curse. She thinks that a fairy-tale kiss will break her spell. She’s got 60 years of experience, so she’s a little more mature than some of the other kids she hangs around with, but she’s still prone to tantrums. It’s a lot of fun to write.
CW: How do you go about self-publishing something like this?
RH: We read a lot online. Thankfully, other people that have done it have written blogs on the process, which makes it easier. The cost can be pretty intense. If you’re paying someone to do it, at an industry rate, for pens and inks, it can be upwards of $2,200 just for that. You can end up spending close to $3,000 total for just one issue. So if you’re married to an artist like myself, it makes a lot of sense to team up to do that.
CW: I’ve seen this one piece of art, of the raven and oriole birds fist-bumping, around a lot online and on t-shirts before. What’s the story behind this?
RH: We’re both big Oriole and Ravens fans. Late one night, Leanne didn’t come to bed. She was up until all hours working on something. The next morning, she shows me this picture of a raven sitting on a branch, fist-bumping an oriole and saying, “Your turn.” It’s so cool, and I figured we just had to put it on a shirt. We’ve seen some people at Camden Yards walking around with that on, which is just so cool for us to see.
CW: How does this year’s convention compare to your past Con experiences?
RH: It’s been pretty typical – really, really busy. There’s a lot of people. Saturday is always a really busy day, and Sunday tends to be a little quieter.
CW: What do you think of the fact that they’re turning this into a three-day experience next year?
RH: It makes sense. This convention is definitely growing. You can see how busy it is. I’m sure with a three-day show, people will come with a different mentality to stay longer. Right now, people tend to just come for one day or the other. But by extending the convention, you can have more guests and more programming and people will come to Baltimore for the whole weekend.