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Artists assemble!

Nearly 500 comic book artists will converge this weekend for Baltimore Comic-Con. Here are 5 local standouts.

By Chris Kaltenbach, The Baltimore Sun

September 6, 2012

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Greg LaRocque has been drawing comic books for more than 30 years, part of a love affair with the medium that dates to 1961, when Marvel's Fantastic Four first appeared on newsstands. Michael Bracco, on the other hand, didn't start appreciating comics until he was a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art about a dozen years ago.

This weekend, the two Baltimore-area artists will be among nearly 500 comic-book creators gathering for the annual Baltimore Comic-Con. Saturday and Sunday, they'll meet and greet, discuss their art, and maybe even sketch a character or two for fans to frame and hang on the wall.

To help set the mood for this year's annual Baltimore convention, we asked six Maryland artists coming to the event about the comics universe and their places therein.

Michael Bracco

33, Hamilton

Titles you've worked on: My most recent book, which will actually come out just in time for Baltimore Comic-Con, is called "The Creators." "The Creators" is the story of a select group of adolescents who gain the ability to bring their imaginations to life through their drawings and the consequences of their boundless imaginations. I've also written and drawn the science fiction graphic novel series "NOVO" as well as the all-ages graphic novel, "Adam Wreck and the Kalosian Space Pirates."

How long have you been drawing comics? I didn't start drawing comics (aside from the feeble attempts of my middle-school years) until right after I graduated MICA in 2001. At MICA, I studied children's book illustration but was constantly told that my work was too scary for kids by teachers and publishers. It was a pretty natural evolution for me to get into comics.

How long have you been reading comics? I had a ton when I was a kid but didn't actually read them. I just had fun looking through the pictures. It wasn't until college that I got into reading comics. It was then that I really fell in love with the medium.

The advantages of comics as a medium? Comics are the perfect middle ground between film and the written word. They are intimate and interactive like a book, but have the visual pacing and scope of a film. They can be fun and campy, or they can be gripping and thoughtful.

Frank Cho

40, Columbia

Titles you've worked on: "Mighty Avengers," "Spider-Man," "Hulk," "X-Men," "New Ultimates," "Shanna the She-Devil," and I'm the creator of the "Liberty Meadows" comic strip.

How long have you been drawing comics? I've been a professional comic artist-writer since 1997, when "Liberty Meadows" was launched worldwide. I've been an exclusive Marvel artist-writer since 2003.

How long have you been reading comics? I've been reading and collecting comics since 1983 when I was a kid. I'm still reading and collecting comics.

The advantages of comics as a medium? I see comics as cinema on paper. When done right, it's as moving, profound and entertaining as any literature or movie. Also, comics are a great educational tool. ... I strongly believe all school libraries should carry comic books.

Greg LaRocque

58, Nottingham

Titles you've worked on: "Flash," "Legion of Super Heroes," "Spider-Man," "The Avengers." Current title is "The Regulators" for Advent Comics.

How long have you been drawing comics? My first published work was in 1980 for DC Comics, a splash page for "Unexpected." So I guess you could actually say my career started in horror. Or was it "Mystery in Space?" It's been so long!

How long have you been reading comics? Fantastic Four No. 1 hooked me for life.

The advantages of comics as a medium? There are many. The ongoing serial aspect to the story and character development over time is nice when you're on a book for a while. Also, the explosion of the independent books has led to much more opportunity for other than 'mainstream' work to be published and seen. ... I guess creating a world and characters that fans grow to love and respect and come to think of as almost alive (see "Big Bang Theory"), and knowing your work touches so many, is a very nice thing.

Jamie Noguchi

35, Rockville

Titles you've worked on: I was the artist for the Web comic "Erfworld: Book1" and currently write and draw the Web comic "Yellow Peril," an Asian-American office romance comedy. I did the art for "Master Tortoise and Master Hare," written by Howard Wong, which is in the upcoming "Secret Identities Volume 2: Shattered" anthology. And I've got a one-page story in "Magic Bullet" No. 5, which is put out by the DC Conspiracy.

How long have you been drawing comics? I've been drawing all my life, but I didn't get serious about wanting to draw comics until I graduated college.

How long have you been reading comics? Since high school. My brother and I discovered our father's collection of Marvel classics and then a friend introduced us to the local comic book store, Big Planet Comics in Bethesda, and I've been hooked ever since.

The advantages of comics as a medium? I could write a master's thesis on this alone, but one of the great things that I love most about comics is the variety of stories that are being published today. We have these huge, epic, sweeping superhero dramas with godlike beings deciding the fate of our very existence, and we have these small, tragically charming stories with characters just like us trying to navigate everyday life. Both kinds of stories can live on the same shelf in the store and be considered masterpieces by comic readers.

Mark Wheatley, Westminster

58, Westminster

Comic titles you've worked on: My own creations and collaborations include "EZ Street," "Lone Justice," "Breathtaker," Black Hood," Prince Nightmare," "Hammer of the Gods" and "Titanic Tales," as well as established titles such as "Tarzan the Warrior," "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen," "Jonny Quest," "Dr. Strange," "The Flash," "Captain Action," "Argus" and "The Spider."

How long have you been drawing comics? I started drawing comics when I was in the fifth grade. Professionally, I've been doing this since 1977.

How long have you been reading comics? About 50 years.

The advantages of comics as a medium? Comics appeal to the film director who is a control freak. I can do EVERYTHING. But I also enjoy collaborations. Comics are probably about the only mass-media fiction form that can still be easily created on a purely artistic level.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

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