On Sunday, February 15 --- a 75-degree winter’s day in Concord, California --- East Bay Comic Con was teeming with costumed adventurers. There were Mandalorian Mercs of the Teren Clan, Bay Area Ghostbusters parked in front Shield’s peppy little enforcement vehicle, aspiring Spiderchilds and Batkids, Wonder Woman and a Steam Punk associate, members of the ever-popular 501st Legion, and villains of every stripe, tail and color. And I thought everyone would be at the beach!
Entering the packed main room, I searched the outer perimeter for new talent. My search paid off when I ran into Robert Stewart, author/artist and creator of the noir-inspired Afterburner: Tales of the Cool and Wicked. I picked up the first volume, THE POLYSONIC BLUES, and was pleased by the Kirbyesque style and intrigued by the R. Crumb-like adult themes (don’t let the kids get hold of this one). Pin-up girls span the pages alongside gangsters with “resonance wave disrupters” who threaten all our safety. The main character, Renfield Briggs, is a not-so-honest security chief who drives his classic Corvette through a sci-fi universe as he hunts the bad guys, bad guys in need of someone who can bring the heat. Wouldn’t give away the ending, but it’s not what you expect – and that’s a good thing. The black-and-white artwork is top shelf from this former San Francisco Academy of Art student. Oh, but that’s not enough Stewart is also a musician playing with The Blues Knockouts – and the name fits – as well as a photographer with a noir perspective. Wanna know more? Check out Stewart’s site.
Speaking of noir, just across the way was Steven Yu, author and illustrator of NeoEras, a punk-impressionist noir comic. The book centers around a revenge plot with a sci-fi twist that will keep you turning the pages. The script is very Eisner-like in its lack of those speech containers commonly called bubbles, labeled by Eisner as “desperation devices.” Yu’s artwork is being featured at a gallery show soon, as well it should --- his work qualifies as fine art par excellence. In addition to doing cover art, storyboards, and film, he is a mentor for young artists. It makes me wanna pick up a sketch book.
Nico Harriman’s THE DONUT KING is a fun slice-of-life a la art school and the ubiquitous doughnut shop. Harriman, a Bay Area Native, is a fine art graduate student at Mills College who utilizes a line style that brings out the angst of a young would-be artist, while his watercolors bring out the flavor of that glazed donut. Yum.
For those of you who can’t get enough zombies, Rob Mather’s Wormwood, from his Spout Comics imprint, is another flesh-ripping addition for your collection. The panels’ photo backdrops add realism to this independent comic and there is a, dare I say, sick twist to the whole thing… but no spoilers here. Oh, and for fans of history and gore, Black Jack Press will be releasing their anticipated ax-smashing Vikings saga in the next 90 days.
If all you thought you were going to do at East Bay Comic Con is wander through trade rooms and see fantastic world-famous artists and cosplayers, you would be wrong. East Bay had some great panels, including a talk on how to create costumes, a Jack Kirby exhibit, tips on how to join fan groups like the 501st Legion or Teren Clan, and even a panel on how to go “From FanBoy to A Sith Lord.” The second annual costume contest featured a cash prize… and since this is sunny California, at the end of the day all the local superheroes could be found at the outdoor Cantina under the palm trees sipping their Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters.