GU Comics Day: Finding artists in the alley

(This entry posted on behalf of Erin Finnegan. She takes a look another one of the reasons why editors go to comic conventions—or send their minions.)

Hello! Starting in July I came on board as an intern in Graphic Universe’s office in New York City. A few years ago I began writing professional convention coverage for Publishers Weekly Comics Week (online) and Otaku USA Magazine’s website. I’m also a manga and anime reviewer for both.

Almost every weekend in North America there is at least one convention devoted to Japanese animation (anime) and comics (manga). Check for the yearly schedule. Last weekend, I went to Otakon, in Baltimore, Maryland, the second largest anime convention in the U.S. When I told Carol about Otakon, she said, “Oh, good! You can look for artists in the Artist Alley for Graphic Universe.” I was sent off with a pocketful of petty cash.

Otakon Artist AlleyOne of Otakon’s most popular features is the Artist Alley. Nearly 200 amateur artists purchase table space (about $80 per table) to sell their artwork, crafts, buttons, homemade T-shirts, handmade jewelry, and plush toys during the 3-day convention. Some also sell self-published comics. These homemade comics are a little harder to come by and can be a little pricey. Carol had only one request for me: “Just make sure they’ve done sequential art before.” Some artists are great at drawing pin-ups but have never tried to do comics. It is a different skill, and artists must show they can draw a whole story, not only terrific single images.

There were artists who tried to emulate manga, and those who went more for a superhero American comic look. Conventions often catch the crossover audience between the two comic worlds. Some attendees at Otakon dressed as Watchmen characters, just like how at San Diego Comic Con some attendees dress as Naruto characters. Otakon attendees are a young crowd, from about age 13 to 30. Because Otakon does not sell one-day admissions, only expensive 3-day passes, the crowd skews older than smaller conventions like MangaNext, where the average attendee is around 17. By contrast, the average San Diego Comic Con attendee is 25-35—except in the anime rooms, in which case, they are much younger and more female.

Any Artist Alley is a good place to look for the next great undiscovered talent. You just have to keep your eyes open.