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An Outsider in a Foreign Land: Appleseed Comic Con

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Photo credit: Dustin Keeslar

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Written by: Communicator StaffMay 19, 2014

The Appleseed Comic Con, an event to celebrate comics and the comics community, was held this weekend, May 17-18, at the Grand Wayne Convention Center downtown.

Having never been exposed to a comic con or comic books before I was completely uncertain as to what I was walking into.

When I first arrived to the Grand Wayne Convention Center on Saturday I was brushing past men dressed as Storm Troopers and children dressed as Harry Potter. It became quickly apparent to me that dressing up in costume was a fun part of the comic book culture. After inquiring why some people were dressed up from a child dressed as Batman I was told that it is referred to as cosplay and many of these people make their own costumes fashioned after their favorite comic book characters. I consulted with the program brochure which validated young Batman’s statement.

Walking into the actual vendor section was like stepping into another world; a world of art, stories, colors, and costumes. Booth after booth of artists chatting with visitors and sketching in notebooks, children with face paint laughing and running and convention goers swooning over comics that they liked filled up the conference room with an eclectic energy.

Zach Kruse, who oversaw the entirety of the event, said that his vision was to create an environment where the focus was to celebrate the comic book culture and embrace the community. Kruse said that many conventions focus on other aspects of comic book culture such as; film, books and television. However, he wanted to focus on the medium of comic books and celebrate the artist to create an intimate environment where fans and artists can connect with one another.

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Kruse said that there were over 100 artists that had a booth this year. While to me that seemed like a lot, I was told by him and another artist that it was a relatively small show. “I typically keep it at 100-110 [artists]… I like to keep it intimate,” Kruse said.

Many of the artists had heard about the convention from word of mouth. “When I first started doing shows I started calling people who were friends and it just sort of blossomed from there – and I like it that way….not only do I love these people, but they’re brilliant artists. They do amazing pieces of work and I want people to see that and be a part of it and know that it’s there. It’s really just part of spreading the love and doing my damnedest to grow the community,” Kruse said.

Since the show seemed to be so artist driven I thought that I would take it upon myself to talk directly to some of the artists – some of which had traveled quite a distance to participate in the comic con.

I have always wondered which comes first when creating a comic book: the story or the art? What I was surprised to find out is that, like a lot of mediums in art, there isn’t one consecutive trajectory that each artist follows.

Allen Etter, an Instructor of Video and Intermedia at IPFW, had a booth at the convention and said that there is not one way he goes about it and the art is kind of all over the place. “It’s interesting because with this one, Brick, it was based on a story I had written, but with Crimson Rosetta it was completely art driven,” Etter said. He also maintained that the art was what was most important to him.

Andy “Shaggy” Korty, creator/artist/writer, differs. He said that for him it is “…always the writing. You can come up with pretty pictures all you want, but without a story all they are are pretty pictures.” Korty’s series, The Manor, follows a group of artists who get trapped in a haunted boarding house. He said that as the years have gone on the writing has gotten progressively darker. When I asked him if that was intentional he said that it sort of was, like many other mediums of art, he said that his own personal life seemed to get darker it bled into his art.

What I noticed with almost all the artists was that, beyond the story and the visual art, the idea of a character was the central focus. Whereas many writers and visual artists are able to create works without strong characters, it seems that the production of comic books is reliant upon a strong character identity.

Etter, said that a strong character was one of the most important aspects important. “I can’t picture myself doing art for someone else’s story. Because I really know my characters and if someone else is writing a story I won’t know how to get into their character that much.” Etter said that creating his characters is a personal thing for him.

Korty also said that his characters are the most important part of creating his work. “I literally hear the characters say what it is that they are going to say. I see them act it out almost as an animation more than a single- still shot.”

When I asked each artist what was the most difficult part of producing art and comics they all unanimously said that their biggest struggle was time management.

Jeff Gibbons, from Toledo, OH. who produces Cowboy House, said that he essentially makes back beer money and printing costs with the work that he produces and that he has to maintain a part-time job.

Others with children, families and other full-time jobs said that finding time to do what they do is incredibly difficult.

 

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Brandon Peat, a Fort Wayne artist who produces Black Rose, said that finding the time to do his work was the most challenging aspect of it, “…because we all have day jobs, we all have lives. I have a wife and two kids at home so I’ve got to find time to squeeze this in on top of all of that,” Peat said.

I think of all I heard the sentiment of time management was the overriding one that stuck with me. Despite not knowing much about comic books or being an illustrator, I found myself able to related. It is difficult finding time to dedicate to your crafts and hobbies when other things are competing for your time. Yet, here were over 100 artists, the majority of them with other jobs and obligations, dedicating two long days to their craft.

Maybe it is because they have found their niche; their place among their people. Etter seemed to think so, “We’re among our kind,” he joked. However, what was interesting from an objective viewpoint was the diversity amongst
this community of ‘their kinds’. Each artist had a unique style, their own method of working and their own creative process that seemed wildly different from one another. I realized, that while on the surface all comics might appear to follow a similar approach, once one further investigates it becomes apparent that no two comics and artists could ever be the same. It is truly an art form that creates a culture, and without attending the Appleseed Comic Con and having that intimate environment to talk one-on-one with the creators and artists, I might not have ever realized how vastly different each comic and artist is from one another.

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So, despite not being among ‘my kind’ and not having much of a background in comic books; if the goal was to create a community sense and to focus on artist-fan connections then the Appleseed Comic Con succeeded in its goal. As an outsider to the culture I felt welcomed into the colorful vibrant world that was the Appleseed Comic Con.

Story by: Logan Hursh