The 2021 Boston FAN EXPO took place from September 3-5 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. During that time, I met with many different comic book artists, both famous and up-and-coming, but all experienced.
The most exciting part of this experience was watching one of the Expo’s sketch duels. These events are when three well-known comic book artists who are special guests at the expo all draw the same idea given to them by members of the audience and show their finished work at the end. The ideas given to the artists from members of the audience are generally famous comic book characters performing a specific action.
During these events, the artists answer questions from the crowd on their experience in and thoughts on the comic book creating industry while working on illustrating the idea given to them. At the end of the event, a raffle is held to decide which audience members will be able to take home one of the finished pieces of artwork. The experience during one of these sketch duels is an enlightening look into what the comic book community and industry is like.
The three artists at this year’s sketch duel were Yanick Paquette, Ralph “Rags” Morales and Chad Hardin. The audience suggestion was the character Nightcrawler, from the comic book series “X-Men,” grocery shopping. This funny idea was just an example of the fun-loving and relaxing nature of the Boston FAN EXPO where fans of comic book art can come together to see their favorite creators behind this exciting art form.
This idea was illustrated by the three artists in each of their different styles. Yanick Paquette depicted Nightcrawler in the air with groceries being carried in his left hand and in his tail with the onomatopoeia “Bamf” directly above his head. “Bamf” is done on the sketch to show that the character was just suddenly teleported to the space that he is depicted in, which is the character’s special ability. This drawing was outlined in pen without the use of color. There are also no shaded areas in the artwork, which shows that it is ready for color to be inserted. Seeing this display of professional artwork done firsthand led to me interviewing Paquette later on during my time at the Expo.
Yanick Paquette is known for his work on #1 New York Times best-selling comic book Wonder Woman: Earth One. We discussed how important the Boston FAN EXPO (and similar events nationwide) is to young comic book artists starting out in the industry.
Asked how he ranked the Boston Fan Expo in importance to beginner comic book artists, Paquette said, “The shows are pretty much the same everywhere and there’s almost a beauty to it, because if you live in Boston and there’s a comic book convention, it feels like something special.”
All of these shows are important to beginners in the comic book creating industry, because they all provide the opportunity to present one’s work to people that can truly appreciate it. Participating in the Boston FAN EXPO can be special to a comic artist from Boston just starting out in the industry looking to get their work in front of an audience and possibly attract a publisher for their work.
This also relates to the people at the forefront of the comic book creating industry that I also interviewed such as Sean Wang and Javon Stokes.
I interviewed several artists who were promoting their work at booths in the area of the Fan Expo known as Artist Alley, during which time I saw how the Expo is a great promotional resource to the artists working to make great comics in this industry.
Sean Wang, artist and writer of the comic book series “Runners,” who has more than 18 years of professional experience, described the Boston FAN EXPO as being very helpful in growing his readership and has helped him promote his work when, he said, “sometimes it’s hard to get the book into stores as a small press book.
“If people can’t find it in stores, then they don’t know about it,” Wang said. “But coming and setting up at these shows has been great, because then attendees can walk by and find it and discover it and check it out.”
This relates to how the other artists that I met feel about the opportunity that the Boston Fan Expo gives them to promote their work. However, for some it provides another form of promotional opportunity.
Javon Stokes is the creator of the comic book series “Heat.” When I asked him what it was like to promote his work at the Fan Expo he responded by saying, “It’s been a great opportunity to be in a different state. I’m actually from Connecticut, so it’s been a pretty good opportunity for me to broaden my audience to a different region that I’m not normally in all the time.” This shows how the Boston Fan Expo has also been a great opportunity for comic book artists to expand their readership to different parts of the world. The Fan Expo also provides a learning experience to comic book artists in how their readers view their work.
I also met with the artist Tony Kordos, who is known for his high-detail line artwork that is categorized by its dark tone. Regarding how he views the Boston FAN EXPO in terms of importance to comic book artists just starting out, Kordos said, “Cons [conventions] in general are pretty important,” noting that, “you can get a lot of good feedback just from watching what people say about your art or what they like or don’t like.” This shows how the Boston FAN EXPO is also a great way to get one’s art reviewed by the members of the comic book fan community and learn how to improve one’s work.
Ultimately, the Boston FAN EXPO is not only a place where fans of comic book art can come and see beautiful and exciting pieces of artwork, but it is also a great opportunity for the people at the forefront of the industry, the artists, to be able to promote their work to large groups of people. It could also be considered the best opportunity for local comic book artists in the Boston area to make themselves known and learn more about the industry so that they can grow their careers.
(The next FAN EXPO Boston is scheduled for August 12-14, 2022 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. For the latest news and updates, visit fanexpohq.com/fanexpoboston.)