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A Return to Artists’ Alley: Interviews from C2E2

April marked the third year of the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, or C2E2.  Like last spring, X-men, Poison Ivies, and Spidermen crowded the halls of McCormick Place, but artists were there in abundance as well.  Even with the advent of the Internet, conventions like this one are still a central part of many comic book artists’ careers.  They offer creators the opportunity to network with one another, make new fans, and put faces to usernames.  My SIFC collaborator and brother, Zachary Johnson, and I braved the costumed crowds and combed  artist alley to speak with a few of the hundreds of talented artists present at C2E2.  Below are three interviews, the first with Victor Carungi, the second with Geoff Wessel, and the third with Yorli Huff.

VICTOR CARUNGI, co-creator of Pencilneck

Miles Johnson: What are you selling today and why should I love it?

Victor Carungi: I’m selling a little mix of everything. I’ve been doing this for 10 years, selling things to the masses and maybe get something made into a movie.  I’ve got a nice mix of everything from superheroes meets reality TV, to horror, to teen books, crime noir, and even a murder mystery thriller that we just came out with last year.

MJ: How do you think that conventions like C2E2 fit into your career and service your career?

VC: At this point it brings a lot of like-minded people together.  There used to be a comic shop in every single small town, and it’s slowly becoming an extinct thing.  When you’re doing a big show it becomes a beacon for like-minded individuals.  So if I’m selling these books online I can reach a large crowd, but I can never really see someone in person.  It’s really nice to be able to put that personal touch on meeting somebody.  Its nice being able to see somebody come back year after year and [hear them] say “Hey, what do you have new for me? I really enjoy what you’ve written.”  Half of it [tabling] is doing it to get your story on paper and the other half is actually seeing people enjoy it.  A lot of that tone is taken away unless you come to a convention.

MJ: What would you name as a major challenge of being a comic artist?

VC: Money (laughter).  A major challenge is money in general.  It’s very expensive to do the prints, go to shows, etc.  There  are a lot of great artists, writers, and self publishers out there, and with that whole breadth of offering a person’s dollar can only go so far.  I try to sell my stuff as close to cost as possible just to get it in peoples hands. That’s the main reason I’m doing it, just to get it out there.

MJ: What is something that you love about making comics?

VC: The creating. I’ve looked at some of the books that I have and it’s amazing how it starts as a single thought in your heard and then gets visualized and turned into an actual art form where you give life to a character.  You look at that book and it’s something that you’ve made.  You’ve given that thought in your head a whole personality, a whole persona.

MJ: What is the nerdiest thing about you?

VC: I think everything’s nerdy about me.  I think that’s what’s damn sexy about me; I’m the complete nerd package.  I’m H to T nerd and proud of it.


GEOFFREY WESSEL, creator of Keeper

MJ: What are you selling today and why should I love it?

Geoffrey Wessel: I’m selling issues of a comic book called Keeper.  It’s about a serial killing soccer player.  I also have copies of a mini comic I did with an artist named John Keogh called There is a Light.  Basically it’s a short fantasy story about Morrissey the barbarian. Why should you love it?  Because comics are awesome.  You’re not going to find another medium where you can do crazy things like a serial killing soccer player or Morrissey the Barbarian.

MJ: How do you think that conventions like C2E2 fit into your career and service your career?

GW: Conventions are usually the epicenter of things outside of the Internet. Before the Internet, conventions were the only way that the creators and fans could connect. Of course the Internet has changed that, but there  are certain things that you can’t do online. Conventions provide a personal face-to-face touch to it all.
MJ: What would you name as a major challenge of being a comic artist?

GW: Getting the attention of new readers and the attention of publishers.  But there are always other options.  Keeper is a webcomic right now, and we get the exposure that way. It’s just trying to get their [the fan’s] attention. A lot of fans will take a look at it and they’re not sure because it’s something outside of what they’re familiar with as far as comics or pop culture goes.  So it’s always a challenge, but TV shows, movies, and musicians especially have the same problem. The Internet has helped a lot, but it’s always good to get out there amongst the people too.

MJ: What do you enjoy the most about working in comics?

GW: Well you’re working in comics! (laughter) That’s all there is to it.  It is of itself.   It’s the greatest medium on the planet; it’s words and pictures. Harvey Pekar said you could do anything with words and pictures. What more needs to be said?

MJ: What is the nerdiest thing about you?

GW: We’d be here all day honestly (laughter).  I’ve always been a huge fan of comics and Dr. Who. I like the fact that I’m sitting kitty-corner to a Dalek right now.   It’s all sorts of things.


YORLI HUFF, creator of Superhero Huff

MJ: What is your name?

Yorli Huff: My name is Yorli huff. I am the author creator of Superhero Huff, based on a true story, which is my life.

MJ: Could you tell us a little bit about it?

YH: I used to be an undercover drug agent here in Chicago for the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department and I was discriminated against.  I got evidence against them and filed a complaint internally, and in turn they threatened to kill me.  I had to go the FBI to get my charges approved with the EEOC and after an 11 year legal battle, I won.

MJ: Woah. (laughter) That’s an awesome story! Do you do a lot of conventions then?

YH: Yes.  This is the comic book side of my project but I have a nonfiction autobiography called the Veil of Victory, and I do speaking engagements, coaching and seminars. I took my character from the Veil of Victory and created a comic book and cartoon for the kids. You can see the prototypes of my action figures and I have t-shirts and posters.

MJ: As far as the comic book side of things goes, what do you feel is the biggest challenge?

YH: I just think to get the word out about Superhero Huff and what she stands for. I am a real live superhero it’s a never been told true story. So just to be amongst all of the other fictional superheroes, it’s a challenge to get people to think that we’ve got real live superheroes here.

MJ: What you like the most about promoting your story?

YH: Telling people who I am and what I’m about, my experience. To be able to be alive and be here to share it and to inspire people and motivate them and encourage them that they can have their dreams come true.

MJ: What is the nerdiest thing about you?

YH: (Laughter) Well I’m a previous techie. I used to be a computer programmer and I’m kind of anal with my programming skills and testing and all that.  That’s my nerdy part (laughter).

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