September 22, 2018
Arts & Entertainment
80° Scattered Clouds
  • Michael Bracco’s “The Creators” is about young people who bring their imaginations to life through drawings.
    Photo Provided
    Michael Bracco’s “The Creators” is about young people who bring their imaginations to life through drawings.
  • Wonder Woman by Lynne Yoshii
    Photo Provided
    Wonder Woman by Lynne Yoshii
  • Released in the 1980s, “Secret Wars” featured several heroes and villains from the Marvel universe. It also introduced Spider-Man’s black costume, drawn by Mike Zeck.
    Photo Provided
    Released in the 1980s, “Secret Wars” featured several heroes and villains from the Marvel universe. It also introduced Spider-Man’s black costume, drawn by Mike Zeck.

Baltimore Comic-Con Brings Talented Artists To Charm City

Zach Sparks
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View Bio
August 21, 2018

Event Returns September 28-30 At The Baltimore Convention Center

When Baltimore Comic-Con comes to the Baltimore Convention Center from September 28-30, attendees will have the chance to meet Zachary Levi, the soon-to-be superhero and protagonist in “Shazam!” and Mike Colter, who plays Luke Cage, the wrongly convicted man possessing unbreakable skin and super strength on the gritty Netflix series of the same name. But just as important, attendees can interact with dozens of artists who draw, ink and plot comic books. Meet some of the creators who will be at the 2018 showcase.

 

Mike Zeck

As an artist for Marvel and DC, Mike Zeck worked on some of the most recognizable characters in the comic book universe. He got his start with Charlton Comics in the 1970s, and from there, he became immersed in a world he long admired.

Q: Thirty-one years later, “Kraven’s Last Hunt” has never been out of print and is still one of the most revered “Spider-Man” stories. What appealed to you when you first saw the plot conceived by John Marc DeMatteis?

A: I think what appealed to me most was how he took a character (Kraven the Hunter) who had been bouncing around the Marvel universe for more than 20 years and was largely undefined, and totally and perfectly defined him, elevating him from also-ran villain status to one of Spider-Man’s greatest foes.

Above that, when I read the plot, I recognized it as one of the best Spider-Man stories that I had ever read. Very gratified that readers saw that as well, and that it’s still earning new fans 30-plus years later.

Q: “Secret Wars” has a sprawling storyline and has been credited for introducing so many people to comics. Was it surprising to you that it became so big?

A: Yes! While I think we all saw potential for a successful series, sold-out editions and second printings suggest that none of us quite expected it to sell in those numbers. The new readers that you mention are what I consider to be the real success of “Secret Wars.” There are other series which can point to sales figures, but no other series brought new readers into the industry in numbers like “Secret Wars.” During the 33 years since, I’ve never been at a convention where I didn’t have a large number of fans tell me that it was “Secret Wars” that introduced them to comics. I’m much more proud of that than the sales figures.

Q: There are so many beloved characters we haven’t gotten to yet, Captain America and the Punisher among them. Is there one project you worked on whose development you feel had the biggest impact on?

A: The Punisher was another one of those characters who had been bouncing around Marvel titles with no real definition or direction, partly because Marvel editorial and many of the writers saw no potential there. When Steven Grant approached me with his plot and take on the character, I saw a perfectly defined Punisher there. Surprisingly, he had been shopping this plot at Marvel for something like a year with no success. Marvel didn’t think the Punisher could support his own title. When I joined the cause, Marvel begrudgingly OK’d the limited series.

The “impact” of “The Punisher” limited series is that we left Marvel with a new flagship character who would support two monthly titles, movies, merchandise and the currently successful Netflix series. And quite popular among military and police.

I’ll mention that my design of Spider-Man’s black costume had something of a lasting impact as well. Very nice to still see so much cosplay, T-shirts, hoodies and other merchandise at shows.

Q: What can fans at Baltimore Comic-Con expect to find at your table?

A: If they’re shopping, they’ll find some high-quality prints of my more popular covers along with a few variant cover comics and some chances to win free things throughout the weekend. If they just want to say hi, ask a question, talk art, shake hands or grab a photo op, those folks are welcome as well. Like most folks, I consider Baltimore to be one of the top shows on the planet. My experience has always been guests, vendors and fans all having a fantastic weekend.

 

Michael Bracco

Now preparing for his 11th year at Comic-Con, Baltimore’s Michael Bracco has dedicated more than a decade to two projects: “Novo,” the story of an immortal alien boy who watches civilizations torn apart by greed and hatred, and “The Creators,” for which he will debut the second volume at Baltimore Comic-Con. Bracco also owns an apparel company, Spaghetti Kiss, which has men’s and women’s clothing marked with his fantasy illustrations. Find his comic at www.creatorscomic.com and his apparel at www.spaghettikiss.etsy.com.

You had mentioned “Harold and the Purple Crayon” was the inspiration for “The Creators?”

“The Creators” is all about young people who can bring their imaginations to life through their drawings, kind of like “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” He would draw his environment and walk through it. Unlike “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” I was interested in all the crazy social ramifications of that power if it existed in the real world.

You just launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for Volume Two of “The Creators.” Can you tease readers with some of the ramifications included in this part of the story?

In the first volume, which came out in 2016, the book focuses on how the world is reacting to these kids and their powers, and they make this [building], somewhere between a school and holding facility, for them and it’s all about them dealing with how the world looks at them. In the next book, you have some Creators who are heroes, some who are indifferent and some who, because of the systematic negative feelings toward them and the systems that have pushed them into the corner, they have become almost villains, so you’re seeing the repercussions of what happens when you treat these people like they are second-class citizens. Some of them really want revenge and really want to take over their own place in the world. So you get these almost kaiju-sized battles and these gigantic creations that are itching to get out and get their comeuppance.

For a story that is focused on science fiction, it is also rooted in all these emotions and problems people can relate to. How much of that are you able to draw from your experience as not only a parent and a teacher and how much comes from your imagination?

So much of it comes from teaching. I’m an art teacher. One of the things that is really interesting about being an art teacher is — if you teach math, everybody in the room that you’re teaching is usually on a similar skill level. There is advanced math and grade-level math, so they are trying to get kids with similar skills in the same room. But in the art room, they don’t do that, especially in middle school. So I am teaching kids of all different skill levels. Also in the same room — it’s a full inclusion program — so there’s kids who have a variety of special needs and it’s really interesting to teach at all these different levels. As for teaching so many students in the class with … The book is based around the idea that when we treat kids who are different like they are kids with a problem, they act like kids with a problem, but if we treat them like potential successes and really work with them and teach them to where they are and help them feel confident, they can feel super successful. And the way the book is based off of that is that these kids are treated like a giant problem, like all they are is dangerous, but they could totally change the world and fix so many of the world’s problems with what makes them special. But it never becomes realized because of how they are treated.

Do you feel that because you have done work with some small presses and self-publishing that you get to tell those stories and have more license over what story you want to tell with words and with images?

I think one of the things that is really cool about comics in general is the fact that they’re not these gigantic-budget projects. Yeah, I needed some help to get these books off the ground through Kickstarter, but the budget that I work with on these books compared to, say, a movie is infinitesimal; it’s so small. And what’s really great about that is, as you said, I get to draw and write this book that is monsters beating the [heck] out of each other and having these epic battles that in a movie would be so many millions of dollars to create, and I use that in my sketch book and scan it in and add color to it, but then the actual story is something that is very near and dear to me. So it’s at least attempting to be more complex than some of the summer blockbuster movies. Comics in general give me that chance and self-publishing keeps me open, and I’ve also been fortunate with the publisher I have worked with over 10 years, Alterna Comics, to have complete creative freedom. I get to control all of the little elements.

Is your artistic style much different with Adam Wreck?

So another book I got to produce back in 2008-2009 was “Adam Wreck,” which was a very different thing for me. Both “Novo” and “The Creators,” I wouldn’t say they are geared toward adults, but they are like young adult and geared toward an older audience. With “Adam Wreck,” I really wanted to do something that I would have loved to read when I was 9 or 10 or even younger but reading with my dad. Growing up, I really loved “Star Wars” and “Flash Gordon” and a lot of the campier stuff like “Lost in Space” and so I wanted to make a story that had that kind of a feel to it. Also it has a very snide, youthful sense of humor to it like “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and I simplified the style in which I draw to make it really fun and goofy and cartoony, over-the-top and exaggerated, which was a lot of fun to do.

What makes this event special?

With all the different conventions that I do — and I do a lot of comic conventions and anime conventions and gaming conventions — but I think Baltimore Comic-Con, more than any other mainstream comic con, the focus is on the comic books themselves. Of course, they have a couple celebrity guests and other media is represented there, but Baltimore Comic-Con is really focused on comics. When I first started it, it was a lot smaller and there was this burgeoning sense of community. I think that everybody in the comics industry that I have ever worked with, everybody that I have ever gone to for advice or given advice to, there was some connection back to that show. I think the Baltimore Comic-Con has made such a strong, tight-knit, independent community of creators, and I will always appreciate and love that about it. Any of the success I’ve had is partly attributed to the other creators around me at that show.

 

Lynne Yoshii

A comic book artist and illustrator, Hawaiian native Lynne Yoshii has a vivid style that has brought to life atmospheric places like Gotham City and characters like Wonder Woman. She also has her own series, “Last Survivor.”

What influences inspired you to pursue this as a career?

My earliest influences were Japanese comics I read as a child, such as “Doraemon,” “Dragonball” and “Tokimeki Tonight.” Later, in the ‘90s, I really got into “X-men,” “Batman” and Vertigo comics.

How did you come up with the concept for “Last Survivor.”

I'm a really big fan of the “Alien” movie franchise. “Last Survivor” was an homage of sorts to James Cameron's “Aliens.”

What about Wonder Woman and some of the other DC characters you have drawn appeals to you as a fan or as an artist?

I've always enjoyed drawing powerful female characters (not just DC!) with a lot of agency. “Wonder Woman” appealed to me because she was symbolic of female empowerment, not just to me or comic fans but also for many others.

What can Baltimore Comic-Con attendees expect to find at your table?

I'll have prints, comics, and collected sketch-work booklets featuring both fan art and my own concepts. I will also be selling original artwork, and will be accepting commissions at the con.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

If you like artwork that features strong female (and male) characters or just want to share a good cookie recipe, come by my table in Artist Alley!


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