Alt.Comic-Con: Strolling Artists’ Alley

Craft & Design Fun & Games
Alt.Comic-Con: Strolling Artists’ Alley
On my way to the convention center. The calm before the storm.

My morning at Comic-Con was jam-packed, and I do mean jam-packed. It’s absurdly crowded. The whole harbor area of San Diego is aswarm with unwashed geek masses (and the booth babes who pretend to like them). Just crossing the street is a major logistical undertaking.

The first thing you notice when you register is the size of the event documentation. Below is the near 200-page Event Guide, the near 200-page Comic-Con guide book, the 32-page Quick Guide, and there’s also an 8-panel daily newspaper (not shown). Once I put all of this in my sling bag, my back was already moaning “uncle.”

Once you see all of the swag that’s floating through this place (entire forests must have been felled in the name of the new Batman movie and The Walking Dead), you understand the need for the absurdly large swag bags. I didn’t understand them until I asked some folks who were carrying them. They have tubular compartments in them for posters. And then, of course, large flat art, and the aforementioned swag-o-ganza: free comic books, blank journals, postcards, DVDs, figurines, buttons, badges, pens, T-shirts, and the rest of it.

The swag bag is bigger than some of the attendees

I started off my day on Artist Alley, the area of the convention center where individual comic artists and illustrators can show off their work, and show off their drawing mojo in real time. It was heartening to see, amongst these artists, booths for art suppliers, instructional drawing videos, and people who teach drawing, sculpting, casting, etc. This is a very small area of the entire event, and it’s literally sidelined (it’s on the far end of the convention center), but it is nice to see the DIY spirit of things still in evidence, in the shadows of the giant entertainment companies. Tomorrow I’ll be checking out the costume area, the Small Press Pavilion, and the Fan Tables.

One of the busy DIY booths was Anatomy Tools, a company that makes anatomical instructional DVDs, books, and reference scupltures. Their work is amazing. It’s not surprising that their full anatomical figures are sold to the medical profession as well as to the artists market.

And look who we bumped into — our pals at MakerBot Industries. They were in Artist Alley too. I love that all of the printouts they were showing were from comic books, sci-fi movies, and the like. And it’s the perfect audience to be selling a “Replicator” to. Lots of people didn’t seem to know about MakerBot, or even 3D printing, but they really didn’t need to have it explained to them.

Here’s a Hammer of Thor they printed on a Replicator.

Loved this MakerBot poster.

I also ran into our old pals Brandon and Jarrod, the Shifflett Bros., who design, sculpt, cast, and sell amazing resin kits. I featured them in a piece, “It Came from My Garage,” back in MAKE Volume 05. I talked to them about maybe doing more with us, and they were excited. I also got a copy of their sculpting video, which I’ll be reviewing here on MAKE.

Cthulhu, anyone? There’s a whole booth devoted to the Old One and his Eldritch ilk.

This was the first thing that greeted me in Artist Alley this morning — a $30,000 original Barry Smith ink from Conan the Barbarian No. 2 (1970). The coolest thing about all of these original panels for sale is the production notes penciled around their edges.

MAKE Goes to Comic-Con

10 thoughts on “Alt.Comic-Con: Strolling Artists’ Alley

  1. Simon Arthur says:

    Are you coming to Dragon*Con? We’ve got Charles “Chibikart/LOLrio Kart” Guan, special effects artist Peter Abrahamson, Robot Battles (the country’s second oldest fighting robot competition) and a robotics track, costuming, and much, much more.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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