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Once I decided to go to Comicpalooza 2011, I wanted to have a firm game plan. Last year I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off, entirely too indecisive and scattershot. I knew my primary motivation was commissions, and any comics purchased or other events attended would be time killers until all the art had been completed. I also wanted to have my prime candidates for pieces involving specific characters in mind going in. I thought a Terry Moore Captain Harding would be neat, and you'd think a local boy could fit more than one day into his schedule, but Saturday-only was no good for me. I pegged Don Kramer for a realistic style B'rett, but he also left before Sunday. I thought good girl artist Ale Garza might be too obvious for Scorch, and he draws really nice brawny characters, so I considered him for Mongul, B'rett, and as a compromise, J'en. However, $160 was out of my price range. When the artist of another commission I'd long been owed finally showed, the piece had been "forgotten" at out planned hand-off, so that was a whole thing.
Anyway, it took me hours to get all the "to have and have not" issues sorted out, for a total of four tangible commissions to that point. This might explain why I kept passing by one table right in the middle of artist's alley. Besides the better known artists, I'd also researched a few dozen unfamiliar folk attending through the internet beforehand, and selected some candidates. I only managed to find one of those few, Nick Pitarra, and he was right smack dab in my throughway. However, I was too busy spinning plates to talk with him for most of the day.
About $300 later, I was still debating a $100 Bob Layton, even though I knew I'd already spent way too much money for an unemployed student. The girlfriend was totally going to love me when she got back from her trip. Anyway, I finally talked with Pitarra about being my new choice for a B'rett commission before trying one more time to get another rather delayed pending job done (ultimately a five hour process, when my Ethan Van Sciver only took about 3½.) Still in limbo, it occurred to me that I'd pretty much completely ignored Pitarra's table mate, so I doubled back to explain my rudeness and look at his stuff.
According to his con bio, "Isaac Mardis is a Joe Kubert School of Cartooning graduate and is a Art Education major at the University of Houston. He's currently working on his revisioning of Peter Pan. He's a horrible joke teller and is generally not liked by most people." I don't know, he seemed like a pretty good guy to me. I also liked that Kubert influence in his samples, so I passed him my reference pages to choose a character. The only one he recognized was Mongul, who he remembered as being "kind of a jerk," so that was his selection. Mardis went right to work, while I tooled around, waiting on my three commissions. I groused a bit about that one guy that was taking his sweet time, and Mardis was worried I meant him, even though his piece came along amongst the faster of the lot. Besides, as I joked, "it's not like I want you to just slap something together real quick." Heck, I don't even think we'd agreed to do anything until well into the 4 o'clock hour, if not 5.
I'd pretty much had my fill of Comicpalooza by that last hour, so I just rested my tired legs at the crumby little food court, reading my twenty cent copies of Amazing Heroes (the Wizard Magazine of the '80s, without the more negative connotations of that analogy.) I can't recall if Mardis was done before or after six, but he was timely, especially considering this was a $40 pencil & ink job. The end result, as you can see, was a cool and unique take on the character. Most Mongul artists have been really polished types, from Curt Swan to Kerry Gammill to Mike McKone. I don't think many people remember his rough & tumble roots under Jim Starlin & Quickdraw, my favorite period of the character, which this piece harkens back to. At the same time, there's a bit of the '90s about it, recalling elements of his appearances under Darryl Banks and Oscar Jimenez.
After six, I only had one piece remaining, and was invited to hang out at the artists' table until it was finished. I laid out the other five commissions of the day, which Mardis and I admired. Mardis complemented me on my enthusiasm, saying it inspired both himself and his partner to do their best. I really appreciated that, because I hate when commissions are just a business transaction. You know a guy who collects pieces of characters as obscure as mine isn't just going to try to flip them on eBay, so of course I want the artists to be excited about not having to draw Spider-Man or Wolverine for the umpteenth time. I always hope for something inventive and fun every time, because I figure the Vile Menagerie deserves some love. Somehow, we also got into a discussion on breaking into the industry, which I think was a tangent of a tangent of mine from a fatigued brain. I was just happy the guy was keeping me company, and when he was away, there was always Mongul...
(A brief aside: Mardis signed this piece at the bottom right, but I couldn't fit it on my scanner, and removed bits of its "debris" from around the foot.)