As a comics-centered convention, one of Special Edition NYC’s biggest draw for attendees is its attraction of big-name industry creators. Without the chaos and overflow that comes with New York Comic Con every year, fans have a better opportunity to snag a sketch from their favorite artist or chat one-on-one with the writers of their preferred series.
But with lesser crowds and more focus on comics comes the indie cartoonists and their undiscovered talent. Some of the most amazing finds of Special Edition are right under attendees’ noses, without Big 2 or Image Comics backing. Some of the most impressive individuals I met at Special Edition this year included:
Babs Webb and Morgan O. Shay
Sitting together this year at table I12, these two ladies specialize in dark, grotesque, but also pretty sweet art that evoke both discomfort and awe.
I met Webb at last year’s Special Edition, in which she sold me a print of the first page of her book, “A Tale of Eternal Longing.” This year, I returned to buy the whole book since the print is too tantalizing to resist continuation. Formatted like a children’s book, “A Tale of Eternal Longing”’s tender narration tells of a lonely demon that is ostracized due to his ugly, hardened appearance. Webb shows a natural aptitude for circular story structure and her drawings of the woods and the creatures that inhabit it employ a bizarre, eerie edge. This year, she also sold new prints and clay figures of animal skulls and decorated hearts.
Next to Webb, Shay told me that she likes to draw hands, a feature evident in both her prints of female Disney movie villains and original works. “Sacred Acolyte”, initially featured in Justin Jordan’s Image Comics series “Spread,” displays a naked woman ripping herself open in glee as dozens of bright red hands spill out of her body. In another print, the three Fates emerge out of a deer carcass, their hands connected to the cosmos in the sky. Shay’s work is not only expressive and magnetic, but empowering as well. Among the ranks of Ursula and Cruella DeVille are dark, but ambitious original female characters that revel in their power.
In her book “Boys With Wings”, Peterschmidt says in her author’s note, “Sequential narration is not just limited to box after box; so long as the reader is able to follow the story, it doesn’t matter the format.” Her book is the perfect demonstration of these sentiments; the several images on each page are arranged to relate to one another enough to follow the storyline chronologically, but none of them are contained within tight borders. At most, they are framed like watercolor portraits of steampunk airplanes, dragons, and mystical cities. Peterschmidt’s art feels free of boundaries, with each page containing its own idea so that the images never feel like that they are imposing on one another.
Furthermore, “Boys With Wings”’ protagonist, Amelia Erroway, is intelligent, precocious, and relatable. Never will one fall in love with a fictional ten-year-old girl so quickly, as she is a detailed reminder of what being 10 feels like.
Lee is the creator of comics series “Hysterics” and “Fight Like a Girl.” Her use of color is remarkable; for her original characters, she uses a series of light blues and pinks that come together in pretty, feminine canvases. However, as soft as her pastels are, Lee’s characters certainly aren’t soft. They all contain a tough edge, their postures and gazes daring viewers to open their covers and accept them and their strength as they are. To fight like a girl means to be as strong as any of Lee’s definitive female characters.
I stopped by Cummings’ booth to make a quick, end-of-con purchase of her Marvel’s Miss. America print. However, Cummings has shown that she has quite a hand in various genres, whether they are in reference to pop culture (“Some men just can’t hold their arsenic”) or of her own original creation (“We’re Closed!”). All of her work looks like could pop out of the page, much in due part to her strong sense of lighting and very close attention to detail. Cummings has also worked in concept art, having created creatures for Edge of Heaven, a science fiction role-playing game.
Special Edition: NYC is one of the biggest opportunities con attendees have to come in contact with new, unique art. One may come for the publisher panels and established creators, but should stay for the indies. Who knows, the next breakout star may be there!