Comic Con International is the biggest pop culture event of the year, with major entertainment companies, artists, designers and rabid fans descending on the San Diego Convention Center by the tens of thousands for a weekend full of premieres, debuts, unveilings, surprise appearances and enough geeky treats to satisfy fanboys and fangirls for another year. But what about those artists who choose to create and produce their own independent vision, the little guys who have yet to be swallowed up by the big fish in the sea of media giants? They’re still making a strong impact on the landscape of the convention floor, proving that the spirit of independence is alive and well at Comic Con.
Blake Armstrong has an extremely diverse entertainment industry background, but nothing has ever made him feel as passionate as creating his own illustrated fantasy series. The result is The Jester’s Curse, a dark and spaced out saga influenced by the music of In Flames and soon to be co-published by Heavy Metal magazine. Blake spent six months creating his moody series, in hopes that it would lead to being published and available to fans, but when he got the attention of Heavy Metal magazine, his indie success story was complete.
San Diego native Erik Arreaga grew up when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the big, bad heroes of Image Comics ruled the comic store shelves. Back then, he dreamed of one day attending Comic Con as a professional artist. Now in his seventeenth year selling prints and original art at SDCC, it’s safe to say Erik has made his artistic dreams come true on the Con floor. This year his Zombie Last Supper prints turned heads, and lots of his original Ninja Turtles artwork were up for sale too.
Robert A. Kraus
The works of RAK are a familiar sight to Comic Con attendees, and Robert sells mini prints of his works complete with card sleeve for a dollar so his booth is very popular with kids and comic art fans alike. He’s been sharing his heroic visions of pop culture characters with Comic Con attendees for the last eight years, and if his name sounds familiar then you may be remember him as the creator of the character Chakan the Forever Man, who appeared in his own comic book series and video games in the 1990s.
The graphic novels released by Creative Mind Energy are truly a family affair, created by Damian Wassel Sr., his sons Damian Jr. and Adrian and illustrated by nephew Nathan C. Gooden. It all started with a story that Damian Sr. used to tell the boys before bed about Professor Wallaby. The kids loved the story so much that when his nephew Nathan started drawing the group decided to illustrate Damian Sr.’s beloved vision. Their newest comic series The Gifted and Deadeye were met with much acclaim and success at SDCC, and the illustrated story of Professor Wallaby is now available in a handsome slipcased edition.
Ira Hunter, Lawrence Denvir and Robin Thompson came to Comic Con in 1999 with nothing but a backpack full of handmade Champions of Hell comics and a dream, and the next year they got a table and brought their decidedly dark comic book series to the Con floor. Now they’ve released a full color compilation of their Zombie Jesus comic with a cover by Tony Moore of Walking Dead fame, and they’re about to team up with horror icon George A. Romero for their next title. 13 Flames continues to push the boundaries of horror comics and fantastic satire with their heavy metal inspired comic book creations.
Bill Robinson and Ian Samuels
Illustrated children’s books and animation collide in the works of Bill Robinson and Ian Samuels (not pictured). Bill has a background in character design for animation, and Ian has worked for the Jim Henson Company, so it’s no wonder the characters in their newest book Gwendolyn and the Underworld are so darn appealing. They also created the doggone adorable book M is for Mutt, which is sure to make both kids and adults bark with joy.
Paper Ammo Company
The artwork of Wattana Khommarath is colorful, textural and full of character, which is no surprise considering that Wattana teaches animation to students at the Art Institute of San Diego. His booth partner Tou Vue creates fine art pieces for the geek world, featuring icons like Wolverine and Spider-Man rendered in a painterly style. Both Wattana and Tou are talented artists, and the chance to own one of their original handmade works makes their booth quite popular with art lovers and animation fans alike.
Husband and wife team George and Ayleen Gaspar have turned their love of toys, designer and otherwise, into innovative company October Toys, and many credit their newest line of M.U.S.C.L.E.-inspired figures, Outrageous Mini Figure Guys (O.M.F.G.), as almost singlehandedly bringing the mini figure craze back to life. George and Ayleen also host a weekly internet show called Toy Break, where they extol their love of toys and review all the latest colorful plastic bits. At SDCC 2013, George hosted the first ever Toy Break panel with special guests Scott Tolleson, H. Eric Mayse from the Four Horsemen and Jay Garcia of MANA studios.
Spymonkey Creations Inc.
Indie toymakers Brian T. Stevenson and Jeremy Sung of Spymonkey Creations Inc. achieved the impossible in order to debut their Weaponeers of Monkaa toy line at Comic Con 2013; they sculpted, cast, fabricated and packaged an entire array of figures in a mere five months, a feat that typically takes large toy companies a year and a half to produce. They have both worked in the entertainment industry, doing everything from voiceovers to post production work, but the 80s kid inside them won out, and the world is a much more fun place because of it.
Chamanvision and Kenny Keil
Gustavo Vaca is a man with a bold vision, and his company, Chamanvision, is a reflection of his desire to bring art and music together in rhythmic tones and bold expressions. He and his wife, Alma Villegas, have worked with like-minded artists from around the world to create everything from album covers, t shirts and books to street art. This year they teamed up with artist Kenny Keil, who has worked for MAD Magazine and created the retro styled series Tales to Suffice, to create a hip hop infused comic series called Rhyme Travelers, which is sure to appeal to fans of graffiti, hip hop and comic book fans in general.
Alex Pardee has come a long way from his days as an unknown artist set up in Comic Con’s Artists Alley selling ashcan sketchbooks, homemade comics and t shirts. These days Alex is a swiftly rising star of the indie art scene, and his beloved Bunnywith series celebrated its tenth year with the 2013 SDCC exclusive Bunny With Slave Girl Fetish, a Jabba the Hutt shaped figure sporting a cute little bunny face and ears. Pardee’s psychedelic madness has been used on album covers, advertisements, and in 2010 he briefly had an incredibly strange online series on the WB network called Chadam.
Image via EyeSuckInk
If you think there’s no place for the little guy at Comic Con think again, these artists prove that a fresh perspective and an independent vision still command respect at the world’s largest pop culture convention. Who’s your favorite independent artist of the bunch? For those of you who attended Comic Con, do you know of any indie artists I should have included? If so, tell us more in the comments below.