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The Journal Gazette

  • David Rettig, left, and Benjamin Rettig, 12, walk through Grand Wayne Center dressed as characters from “Legion.”

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Carter Jagger, 8, reacts as he sifts through comic books looking for Spider-Man comics at the Knappy’s Komics & Kollectibles booth Saturday at Grand Wayne Center.

  • Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Artist Mark Kistler gets prints out for a customer at his booth Saturday at FantastiCon at Grand Wayne Center. The event continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday, September 23, 2018 1:00 am

Comic fans get chance to live out the fantasy


One moment you're beset by a gaggle of Spider-Men; the next, you're being chased by a blinking and beeping R2-D2.

Oh, and watch out for that troupe of toddler-sized Thors entering from the left.

That was the scene Saturday as FantastiCon, described by its promoters as the “ultimate comic-book and pop-culture experience,” took over a ballroom at Fort Wayne's Grand Wayne Center.

Inside were vendors hawking suits and swords, comic books and superhero drawings, and outside, attendees wandered about downtown dressed as Superman or Batgirl, as if the leaves of the calendar had been magically swept ahead to Halloween.

But also at the event's sixth installment were some who were more serious about what amounts to an American growth industry – publishing, writing and drawing comics.

“The main reason I came here was to hear these guys,” said Robert Lee, 47, of Fort Wayne, referring to comic book artists Arthur Suydam, known as The Zombie King, and Michael Golden of “Dr. Strange” and “Howard the Duck.”

The two spoke about how they got into drawing for comic books and gave career and artistic tips to the approximately 30 people who attended the panel.  

A professor of German at Purdue University Fort Wayne, Lee said he doesn't draw and doesn't have a finished novel – graphic or otherwise – in a drawer at home.

“I'm just very into this world,” he said, confessing to wanting to go to art school as a kid and having written his first novel in ninth grade.

“Two kids read it. One did a book report on it,” he said, smiling.

Kayla Perkins, 15, came with her parents, Wenona and Eddie Perkins of Fort Wayne, because she aspires to become a commercial artist. Her mom even keeps her drawings – including a couple of Spider-Man action figures – on her phone.

The Wayne High School student has her eyes set on college – though she's undecided about whether to go the art or theater route. “I kind of want to do special-effects makeup, really,” she said.

The panelists made it sound as if working in comics was anything but easy. They described career paths that were hit-or-miss, depending a lot on chance and being at the right place at the right time.

Suydam said he started out wanting to be a professional tennis player, but an illness ended that. Then he became a guitarist who backed up professionals including The Platters and Bill Haley and the Comets.

That led to working with music-fan magazines and, ultimately, to drawing zombies, which Marvel published. “I'm told it (one of his works) started the whole zombie phenomenon,” he said.

The two described a tough business where ideas get stolen, royalties don't always get paid, and some of the best story authors and artists are independents.

The internet has changed the publishing game, making anyone able to get their work shown online, they said. So, competition is tough, but demand is there.

“This is a great time to be in this industry,” Golden said, “as long as you've got the cojones to stand it.”