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Comic lovers gather in Claremont

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Brian Rios
Staff Writer

Art of Pop, a quarterly celebration of local comic book and pop culture artists, returned Sunday to the Claremont Packing House.

“Art is a lot like ‘Field of Dreams,’” comic book illustrator Robert Zailo said. “If it is good art, and the storytelling is executed well, then people will come.”

Zailo said he immediately fell in love with comic books when he was young.

Zailo said he appreciated the Packing House for hosting the event because it gave him and other artists an opportunity to build connections with people and fans.

He said he keeps connected with his fans by using a mailing list to keep them up to date with new projects and upcoming events.

“As an artist, it is important to always have that next project in line,” Zailo said. “It’s what keeps me going because it challenges me into solving a problem with my imagination.”

Zailo said amongst his favorite in the industry are comic writer Jim Starlin and comic artists Jim Steranko and John Byrne.

Starlin, Steranko and Byrne are best known for their work with Marvel comics such as “The Infinity Gauntlet,” various X-Men comics and Marvel’s “S.H.I.E.L.D.” comic series.

“I try not to limit myself to just one genre or one write because comic books are so broad,” Zailo said. “There are a lot of genres, but my favorite type is one that is well told.”

A man wearing a yellow Star Trek jacket and a child wearing a Pikachu zip-up walked by the artists’ tables and Zailo offered to sketch the boy a drawing on a comic book.

The Art of Pop event also gave artists the chance to expand their influences, sell their work or find new projects.

Comic book script writer Kenneth Christensen celebrated the sale of one of his art pieces.

He and his illustrator, Patrick Clausen, teamed up to create a comic book called “The Rehabilitators.”

“We met at Mt. SAC and we hit it off immediately,” Clausen said. “Our goal is to strive and be the best that we can be. There is no need to measure ourselves to anyone else.”

“The Rehabilitators” draws influences from Christensen and Clausen’s adolescence.

At an early age, Christensen said he was inspired to create his own work and started drawing and sketching his favorite comic book characters.

He said he started reading comics like Marvel’s Daredevil and the X-Men until he discovered his father’s favorite comic, Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman.”

He said Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” changed his perception on traditional comics.

“The dreary effect in its story and graphics really struck me,” Christensen said. “‘The Sandman’ was the first time I realized that comic books didn’t have to be just superheroes.”

Christensen said that superheroes were the norm in comics, but as different genres and topics came onto the scene, he became more interested into reading about the non-heroic side.

Both Christensen and Zailo said that comic books have changed over the decades, not only in style, but also in content.

Christensen said the next change to look for is diversity.

“There is such a need for diversity in comic books,” he said. “Characters that are brought in for diversity end up being exploited for the identity they were trying to support in the first place.”

Fans enjoyed the event as well.

“I’ve been following comic books for the past 10 years,” Alhambra resident Roman Rodriguez said. “I’ve been hunting comics since Marvel came out with ‘Iron Man,’ and I see traditional comic books staying around despite comics being available online and on apps.”

The next installment of Art of Pop will return to the Claremont Packing House Sept. 16.

Brian Rios can be reached at brian.rios@laverne.edu.

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