What is it? What should you expect?
It’s sensory overload at its best. For the purists, Artist Alley is the place to discover independent and up-and-coming artists. Whether it’s for original artwork, anthologies, comic books to be signed and purchased or maybe it’s the crafters who create everything from hats, to pillows, bookmarks, jewellry – Artist Alley will not disappoint even the most jaded fan. There is something for everyone in this fandom world of Fan Expo.
Kevin Boyd, Fan Expo's Comic Relations Coordinator, says it can be an overwhelming experience. "But fans can find new talent, like indie artists and writers who are creating their own comic books and graphic novels, and they are eager to talk to you and share with you their ideas. The best part is the work is affordable, so budget some time and a little money to support artists creating new content."
This year proves to be another exciting lineup of featured comic creators, among them the legend John Byrne, who needs no introduction, Scott Snyder, who writes Justice League for DC Comics, and Nick Spencer, writer of Amazing Spider-Man for Marvel Comics. These are just some of the names that have been announced, with more to come.
But whether you’re new to Fan Expo or you’re a pro, there is an unwritten rule of etiquette when it comes to Artist Alley. To help you navigate this maze, long-time fan Eric Anthony of Toronto has a few suggestions to make your experience memorable.
When should you go?
“Best day to start is on Thursday or Friday when the artist are more accessible It’s pretty mind blowing, and unless you have a game plan and know what you’re looking for or who you want to meet, you’ll miss out on the most amazing experiences and memories. It’s also a little more casual, the creators are energetic and excited, they want to interact with people and yes, make some money. And don’t forget they like talking about comics just as much as we do.”
Plan your attack.
“Walk it,” suggests Eric Anthony. “Go from one end to the other. You’ll be tempted and that’s okay, but you want to see what’s there, what things cost and get the best bang for your buck. A pro artist might charge 150 bucks for a head bust of Batman, but you might be able to get a whole figure for 60 in Artist Alley. And check out whose style you like – especially if you have in your mind a Black Panther commission in your sketch book. Some artists do great characters but they don’t necessarily do a great Superman. They may not be famous now – but you never know.”
Want a book signed?
“Rule of thumb, don’t take a shoe box filled with books. Select 3- 4 and have them ready. The line-ups are long and you’re not the only one wanting to get something signed. And don’t forget, some of these guys charge for a signature, while others are free.”
“Ask first and that includes cosplayers. Also, read the crowd around you -- for the most part, they love having their picture taken for free.”
“The sky is the limit. So best to go in with a budget in mind, and a shopping list doesn’t hurt.”
“Have fun and pace yourself. You never know who you might be walking by, after all, everyone is a fan.
What to look for:
As for up-and-coming creators, Eric Anthony suggests:
- Mike Rooth – tremendous talent and a super nice guy. Known for pinup and concert work but is currently working on a creator-owned title named Retcon.
- Shawn Daley – artist and writer for self-published books TerraQuill and Samurai Grandpa. A self-taught artist who is really making a name for himself.
- Meaghan Carter – a self-published cartoonist – check out her current work in the action mythology comic GodSlave.
- Shane Heron – writer and co-creator of Morris and Black Hole Hunters Club with Ricky Lima, who is also a writer on the rise. Definitely look for them. Super friendly guys.
- Saffron Aurora – a gifted artist who can tackle any style and is branching out into video games, having just launched her own video game company. Her story Catnap Café, in the anthology book called Osgoode as Gold, was inspired by her love of anime in Magical Girls.
- Casey Parsons – this may be his first show tabling. Great pencil artist and painter who just successfully launched a Kickstarter comic magazine with Shane, Ricky and Sam Noir titled Cauldron. He's definitely going to be a talent to watch.
- Sam Noir – bring the kids to see him. Super friendly, great to chat with.
- Allison O’Toole – editor of the much acclaimed anthology The Wayward Sisters.