Rayguns, Robots and Tattooed Philosophers: Comic Creators to Watch at Fallcon

If you've ever been to a comics convention, you probably have a good idea as what to expect from the 23rd annual installation of the Midwest Comic Book Association's gathering, FallCon. And sure, it's a good opportunity to pick up some collectible geek swag, gawk at fan-made costumes, and meet a few of the names behind your favorite series. (This year's guests include definitive Silver Age Hulk artist Herb Trimpe, Booster Gold creator Dan Jurgens, and well-traveled penciller Gordon Purcell, best known for his work on various Star Trek titles.)

But the notable minds and artists behind classic superhero and sci-fi titles aren't the only attraction to FallCon, and this year's guest roster features a rogue's gallery of local artists who are helping establish just how far comics culture can actually reach. The following is a small cross-section of creators to give you a good idea of what sort of breadth is represented in the Twin Cities comics scene.

Scott Dillon & Mitch Gerads (Johnny Recon)

Classic as it might be, old-school Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers-style pulp has been overshadowed by generations of updated sci-fi aesthetics, ranging from giant-robot manga to the ever-trendy steampunk. Writer Scott Dillon and artist Mitch Gerads have set about renewing the vintage roots of sci-fi action with their title Johnny Recon, which blends an amiable, Whedon-style roguishness with hyperkinetic art that evokes a the digital-gloss of Al Williamson on a caffeine bender. Since it's largely funded with donations from Kickstarter and sold primarily through electronic means (though Twin Citians should be able to pick up a copy at local shops), that gives Johnny Recon all the signs of becoming a burgeoning self-published success story.

Rayguns, Robots and Tattooed Philosophers: Comic Creators to Watch at Fallcon
Ursula Murray Husted

Ursula Murray Husted (Apocalyptic Tangerine)

There's something about Ursula Murray Husted's art that seems designed specifically to let your eyes wander. It could be the loose, rolling way she constructs landscapes and panel structure to make static images feel like they're constantly flowing--if there's any plain old ruler-straight line in her work, I have a hard time finding it. Her minimalist use of colors only highlights just how much observant detail is in her art, making it look busy and spontaneous without feeling cluttered or sloppy, and the whole style works well in concert with her low-key yet philosophically resonant slice-of-life stories. Locals should appreciate the askew angles and hidden elements she finds in the Uptown scenery of her recent work, "Drawing on Yourself."

Ryan Kelly (Funrama)

Kelly's profile amongst local comic artists has been pretty high over the last few years, growing since his underrated 2004 comic Giant Robot Warriors with his contributing work for DC/Vertigo (DMZ; Northlanders; the upcoming New York Five) and Oni Press's 12-part Local series. But pinning down Kelly's m.o. is trickier than just rattling off his resumé--his realistic, naturalist style is versatile enough to work whether it's depicting apocalyptic punk havoc, archetypal superhero action, or realistic drama. Like palpable influences the Hernandez Brothers, Kelly also has a knack for drawing women that feel more three-dimensional and personality-driven than your typical fanboy-baiting fantasy heroines.

Rayguns, Robots and Tattooed Philosophers: Comic Creators to Watch at Fallcon
Diana Nock

Diana Nock (The Intrepid Girlbot)

There's no real shortage of webcomics that attempt to combine whimsical cutesiness and violent, slapstick absurdity, but Diana Nock's The Intrepid Girlbot deserves special recognition. Dialogue-free and heavy on a mood that combines Disney-animal hijinx with off-kilter, futuristic foreboding, Girlbot has a rare atmosphere that makes it breezily goofy one moment and unexpectedly affecting the next, and still finds a way to make those mood shifts feel natural. The comic has spent the last year or so building off its unusual premise--the titular Girlbot captures, inadvertently kills, resuscitates, and cyborg-modifies a raccoon before setting it loose back in the wild--and it's developed a distinctly human feel, which is impressive considering the comic technically doesn't have any humans in it.

Brittney Sabo (Francis Sharp in the Grip of the Uncanny)

You could call what Brittney Sabo does "fantasy art," though that vague term doesn't exactly cover her milieu entirely. If you could distill all the old childhood stories about monsters and the supernatural, portents and spirits, American folklore, and a healthy dose of paranormal adventurousness into a particular genre, Sabo's work would fall somewhere into that area. The way her art blends a youthful sense of wonder with an equally youthful eye for mysterious and unknowable phenomena is impressive, and with her first volume of the Francis Sharp series (co-created with Anna Bratton) earning a Xeric Grant for self-publishing comics creators, that talent is well on its way to gaining further recognition.

FallCon takes place at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds on Saturday, October 16. A full list of the guest artists and creators can be found here.

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