21 Best Comic-Con Artists: A Designer’s Guide

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The world’s largest comic book convention has some secrets that are practically unknown to lovers of graphic design and illustration. San Diego Comic-Con International is famous, as well as feared and loathed, for its lengthy lines of lemmings endlessly waiting to get into mammoth show biz hype-fests that are usually available to the whole world on YouTube within hours. But what gets all the press is just a piddling part of the Con experience, quality-wise. The truth is, you can easily spend most of your time in the company of like-minded creative spirits and comic book artists who share your passions, whether it’s cartooning and illustration, storyboards and animation, product and poster design, or whatever.

Forte electric-chair

So here are some suggestions on how to indulge and immerse yourself in visual culture, free of Hollywood hassle:

1. Okay, they may not have the celebrity cachet of, say, a Jennifer Lawrence, but guests like Chip Kidd, Peter Bagge, and Craig Yoe are super-stars in their own right. And they’re a whole lot easier to access: you’ll find them in the artist, illustrator, exhibitor, small press, and autograph areas and elsewhere throughout the vast main exhibit hall. And typically, they love sharing “war stories” of career frustrations and successes, techniques and strategies, personal insights, and so forth.

1b. And, hey: a vast multitude of the official guests you don’t know are also worth meeting and learning about.

2. Besides the comics geek gatherings — ewww! — a vast amount of the hundreds and hundreds of presentations are art and design-related, and practically all with available seating. Plus, the speakers who capture your imagination are usually more than happy to continue the dialogue if you introduce yourself by the dais after their talk.

3. Just look around you: plenty of your fellow attendees are also involved the creative arts, either directly or tangentially. All it takes for you to suss them out is a perceptive eye, an inquisitive mind, and a friendly “hi” (see: Abraham Morales, below). Network!

Stray Toasters © 2015 Bill Sienkiewicz

Stray Toasters © 2015 Bill Sienkiewicz

My Print colleague Rich Shivener has already given you a sampling of the wealth of knowledge and experience to be had at Comic-Con: just read his interviews with Mouse Guard’s David Petersen, the Cartoon Network’s Kassandra Heller, super-heroics illustrator Taylor Sterling, and web comics’ Becky Dreistadt and Frank Gibson. To build on that foundation, and to with a comic-al spirit, I’ve capriciously composed an arbitrary “Best SDCC 2015 Comics Artists” list, just based on a few of my own encounters over the four-day event. Some were also there last year — reconnecting is a big reason to return — which you can read about in this report. And as our chats usually involved what gives them pleasure these days, I’ve included that info as well. In any event, I’m hoping that this update will give you a greater sense of the diversity and range of the valuable resources and creative inspirations at your disposal.

I haven’t even touched other benefits, such as the rare, exclusive, affordable treasure-trove of books, magazines, comics, posters, original art, and all sorts of other print artifacts. With enough initiative and sense of adventure, you’re sure to discover a few secrets on your own.

p.s.: As of this year, the percentage of female attendees has now grown to 50%.

All photos © M Dooley

Barbara Marker and Casey Robin's booths suggest purple-blue butterflies beat out out rainbows and unicorns in 2015.

Blue butterflies beat out rainbows and unicorns this year: Barbara Marker and Casey Robin at their booths.

• • • • •

21 Best Comics Artists from SDCC 2015: A Designer’s Guide

Best silkscreen-selling pop Surrealist storyboard and comics artist:

Frank Forte

Frank is a Bob’s Burgers artist, Asylum Press publisher, and La Luz de Jesus art-mob insider who enjoys hustling his neo-vintage, limited-edition, Gary-Baseman-meets-Jerry-Kearns prints.

Forte Cartoon-Cat

Above art images © 2015 Frank Forte.

Frank and one of his sources, a Jack Cole comic book cover from 1953.

Frank and one of his sources, a Jack Cole comic book cover from 1953.

• • • • •

Best online publishing and Kickstarter success story artist:

iza Frye

Graphic novelist Eliza enjoys discussing the inspirations behind her powerfully design-driven visual narratives, helping independent artists with self-marketing advice based on her own experiences, and punching people in their guts through her artwork.


Above art images © 2015 Eliza Frye.

• • • • •

Best bootleg album artist turned film poster and blues legends illustrator

William Stout

Recently proclaimed a “Record-Breaking Revolutionary of Music Design,” Bill enjoys signing the limited edition book he produced to stay sane when he worked at Disney Imagineering during a certain mouse’s 60th birthday celebration.

William Stout.

Above art images © 2015 William Stout.

• • • • •

Best 1970s-wave Filipino comics artist with hallucinatory visions:

Alex Niño

Alex enjoys claiming that he developed his dynamic, psychedelic graphic stylizations in order to get noticed over his “better” art peers from the Phillipines like Alfredo Alcala and Nestor Redondo.

Alex Niño.

Above art images © 2015 Alex Niño.

• • • • •

Best artist occupying a booth constructed of corrugated cardboard:

Rhode Montijo

Rhode enjoys a range of storytelling, from books for kindergarteners to a comics series about a kid in hell who’s confronted with an Aztec god, a masked wrestler, and other Mexican spirits.

Sylvia and Rhode Montijo

Above art images © 2015 Rhode Montijo. Right: Sylvia and Rhode Montijo.

• • • • •

Best pop culture fandom mash-up artist:

Karen Hallion

Karen enjoys producing licensed products for clients like Marvel, LucasArts, and Cartoon Network as well as creating her own characters and applying them to pencil skirts, iPhone cases, throw pillows, travel mugs, and other merchandise.

Karen Hallion.

Above art images © 2015 Karen Hallion.

• • • • •

Best artist who provided a sneak preview of his secret project:

Trevor Goring

In addition to updates about his storyboard and book work, Trevor enjoyed giving me an iPad sneak peek at his unannounced graphic novel (psst: it involves Greek mythology and Jungian psychology).

Trevor Goring.

Above art images © 2015 Trevor Goring.

• • • • •

Best radical hippie artist turned successful business tycoon:

Denis Kitchen

Despite his exhaustion from an overbooked schedule that included an honored Spotlight panel and an Eisner Hall of Fame induction, Denis still enjoyed greeting his fans with grace and cordiality.

Denis Kitchen.

Above art images © 2015 Denis Kitchen.

• • • • •

Best artist with a Nick Cave/Chuck Sperry T-shirt that I met in my hotel lobby:

Abraham Morales

After striking up a conversation with Abraham I learned that he’s an accomplished Mexico City-based illustrator for publications like Esquire Latin America who always enjoys his annual Con visits.

Abraham Morales.

Above art images © 2015 Abraham Morales.

• • • • •

Best rising artist with her own “ducks and rockets” comic series:

Natalia Hernandez

For many years Natalia has enjoyed drawing her self-published mini-comic (with a few tips from dad) and premiering it exclusively at Comic-Con.

Crystal Girl

Above art images © 2015 to infinity, Natalia Hernandez.

Natalia with dad and mom Gilbert and Carol and with her newest alt-comic.

Natalia with dad and mom Gilbert and Carol and with her newest alt-comic.

• • • • •

Best comics artist/historian/author/designer who’s also a recent Print Designer of the Week:

Arlen Schumer

When not delivering his own punchy presentations, Arlen enjoys showing up for as many Golden and Silver Age panel discussions as he can.

Arlen Schumer.

Above art images © 2015 Arlen Schumer.

• • • • •

Best mild-mannered artist who draws detailed, diagrammed comic book murder stories:

Rick Geary

After decades of meticulously researching and skillfully writing and illustrating true tales of death – next up: the Black Dahlia – Rick is enjoying his new foray into creating detective fiction.

Rick Geary.

Rick with his wife Deborah. Above art images © 2015 Rick Geary.

• • • • •

Best artist whose 65-year career stretches from Brenda Starr to Plastic Man:

Ramona Fradon

Ramona has a wealth of comics industry stories dating back to 1950, but she also enjoys feisty, opinionated political discussions.

Ramona Fradon.

Above art images © 2015 Ramona Fradon.

• • • • •

Best full-time internet artist who spells his name with an exclamation point:

David Malki!

David enjoys scanning 19th century woodcuts and engravings at L.A.’s Central Library to help keep alive the spirit of Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyers.

David Malki

Above art images © 2015 David Malki!

• • • • •

Best artist who equips his booth with a pronunciation guide:

Bill Sienkiewicz

Daredevil, Elektra Assassin, and Stray Toasters comic book illustrator Bill enjoyed participating in the Temple of Art panel on the upcoming documentary about comics creativity, as well as socializing with fans.

Bill at his booth with Arlen Schumer

Bill at his booth with Arlen Schumer. Above art images © 2015 Bill Sienkiewicz.

• • • • •

Best of the world’s fastest cartoon artists:

Sergio Aragonés

Master of comic humor from small, silent one-panels and his own epically detailed Groo the Wanderer, Sergio has enjoyed attending Comic-Con for 40 years and contributing to Mad for over 50.

Aragones - groo
Sergio Aragonés.

Above images © 2015 Sergio Aragonés.

• • • • •

Best pop manga artist with Avril Lavigne graphic novel credits:

Camilla d’Errico

The creator of Tanpopo, a comics series inspired by Goethe’s Faust, Camilla always enjoys talking about her fancifully enchanted characters as well as her varied sources of inspiration.

Camilla d’Errico.

Above art images © 2015 Camilla d’Errico.

• • • • •

Best artist-creator of a series about a large, hairy former wrestler looking for love:

Ed Luce

Obviously enjoying the success of his new Wuvable Oaf compendium, Ed also crusades against body fascism and false preconceptions about gay comics.

Ed Luce.

Above art i
mages © 2015 Ed Luce.

• • • • •

Best post-Roy Lichtenstein appropriation artist/writer:

John Lustig

Having bought the publishing rights to Charlton’s vintage romance comics in 1987, John now enjoys transforming the art into absurdist “Nuclear War There Goes My Career” narratives and images that he applies to greeting cards, fridge magnets, his online strip, and whatever else strikes his fancy.

John Lustig.

Above art images © 2015 John Lustig.

• • • • •

Best artist multitasking as a Gene Simmons tribute artist:

Dave Woodman

Among the Con’s many caricaturists available to mock your ugly mug – including my favorite: Mad’s Mort Drucker-est artist Tom Richmond (see below left) – Dave, known for his animation work on Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid, and Aladdin, also enjoys putting on a farcical face himself (below right).

Storyboard © Dave Woodman.

Storyboard © Dave Woodman.

Left, Tom’s portrait of the author. Right: Dave gets his licks in.

Left, Tom’s portrait of the author. Right: Dave gets his licks in.

• • • • •

Best artist with the best Print magazine-related news:*

Scott Gandell

* Sub-category: Worst shameless self-promotion.At the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles booth Scott enjoyed showing me his art for two Print features I’d written that had been chosen for the newest “Lürzer’s Archive: 200 Best Illustrators”… Eric Gill, Australian Mad Men, and the Ultimate Books on Typography and Printing Paul Krassner on Obama, Orgies, and the Art of Offensive Cartoons

Gandell lobster

Above art images © 2015 Scott Gandell.

Lower left: Eric Gill. Lower right: Paul Krassner. Top center: Scott Gandell.

Lower left: Eric Gill. Lower right: Paul Krassner. Top center: Scott Gandell.


HOW International Design Awards recognizes excellence on a global scale. Our international design competition is the only competition that prominently recognizes winners in its award-winning magazine – HOW Magazine. The Best of Show Winner and Outstanding Achievement winners are featured in an issue with an in-depth article that showcases the award-winning designs and designers alike. Winners span the globe and give readers of HOW magazine a taste of design innovation on an international design scale.