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.