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International Comic-Con Unleashes Future Comic Book Superstars

Action-movie fans wanting to experience the blockbuster success of Iron Man 2 can head into any North American multiplex this summer to see what Hollywood’s superhero du jour is up to.

But for true comic-book aficionados craving a glimpse of the blockbuster superstars of the future, the International Comic-Con in San Diego on July 22 through 25 is the place to be. Now in its 41st year, San Diego Comic-Con International attracts over 100,000 people, making it the largest comic book and pop culture expo in the world.

Adi Granov, the conceptual illustrator who designed the Iron Man 2 lead character and several of the film’s supporting characters, got his start in the comic book industry by attending International Comic-Con in 2000, armed with an incredible portfolio and a graphic design degree from The Art Institute of Seattle. The overwhelming popularity of comic-book superheroes on the big screen means artists like Granov can witness their creativity across popular culture, thanks in part to cross-branding campaigns like IM2’s $100 million marketing budget and 11 advertising partners.

“It’s satisfying to see my work everywhere,” says Granov, who began working on the Iron Man character for Marvel in 2003 and served as suit consultant on 2008’s Iron Man. “I just saw a Burger King commercial with Iron Man, which is my Iron Man. It’s surreal to see.”

Granov’s last appearance at International Comic-Con was in 2008, when he promoted Iron Man, signing memorabilia alongside the film’s director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr.

Granov hasn’t always worked in the comic-book industry; after graduating from The Art Institute of Seattle in 1998, he began his illustration career as a concept designer for Nintendo. Granov recommends anyone interested in working in the comic book industry make a pilgrimage to Comic-Con International in San Diego at least once.

“Any convention where big companies send editors is a good place to find work,” says Granov, adding that he earned work on a comic book short story from Humanoids Publishing after showing them his portfolio at International Comic-Con 2000. “Because San Diego is the biggest convention for comics in the world, it’s the best place to go to meet people.”

Bob Hanon, now an animation and drawing instructor at The Art Institute of California – San Diego, got his start in the comic book business at an industry convention as well. He attends International Comic-Con every year, and suggests students attend the convention’s portfolio reviews not only for job opportunities, but to hear feedback from respected professionals.

“The San Diego Comic-Con is one of the top three conventions in the U.S. that every industry will go to and be represented,” Hanon says, adding that every San Diego hotel is already booked for the week of Comic-Con. “Hollywood doesn’t have far to go, and they’re willing to put on a huge show for this.”

For example, Hanon recalls Comic-Con 2001, when Paramount Pictures staged a jaw-dropping promotion for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. The studio flew the movie’s star Angelina Jolie in on a helicopter, then dropped her into the convention.

Another instructor at The Art Institute of California – San Diego, Asa Enochs, has seen Comic-Con International evolve significantly since its early days.

“Comic-Con is an interesting beast,” says Enochs, who recently wrote his master’s thesis on comic books. “It’s more about pop culture and entertainment than comics.”

Enochs points to the physical layout of Comic-Con as the most obvious evolution of the show. Whereas Comic-Con used to position small comic book retailers on the main showroom floor, today’s comics sellers are pushed to the side. The movie creators are now the primary focus of Comic-Con, Enochs says.

And that change is evident in the relationship between Hollywood and the comic book industry in general, he says. Enochs cites a company called Radical Entertainment, which creates short runs of comics for the sole purpose of trying out new comic identities to sell to film studios.

“They’re using comics as a format because it’s cheaper than using something else,” Enochs says. “It’s about creating the intellectual property to sell to Hollywood.”

Vincent Zurzolo, the chief operating officer for both Metropolis Collectibles and, has seen the comic book world change in many ways since he began dealing in the industry in the 1980s. At that time, comic book production underwent a huge boom, then bust, but hasn’t yet returned to its peak levels of the early- to mid-1990s.

Today, comic books are usually printed in small print runs in the tens of thousands, Zurzolo says. But the internet has helped to drive sales of vintage and new comic books – some at record prices. For Zurzolo, the big sales prove the future of comic books is in good hands.

“Vintage comic books will continue to increase in popularity,” Zurzolo says, adding that he expects to see the comic book art form integrated into major art museums, not just Hollywood studios. “Certain genres will fall out of favor, but mainstream superheroes and classic artists and writers from the past 70 years will continue to be highly appreciated.”

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AIPD 2010 - 2011 CALENDAR


9.3.10 September Holiday

9.6.10 Labor Day

11.25 & 11.26.10 Thanksgiving

12.23 & 12.24.10 Winter Holiday

12.31.10 New Years Eve


Summer 2010
7.12.2010 - 9.25.2010

Fall 2010
10.4.2010 - 12.18.2010

Winter 2011
1.10.2011 - 3.26.2011

Spring 2011
4.4.2011 - 6.18.2011

Summer 2011
7.11.2011 - 9.18.2011


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