Artists Among Us: A Preview of Montreal Comic Con

If you happen to spot a Power Ranger or Sailor Scout in the days ahead, do not be alarmed. It’s simply that special time of year again, when fanboys and girls of all ages gather at the Palais de Congres for three days of celebrities, cosplay and comic books. Yes, the Montreal Comic Con is back in full swing this weekend and expecting some 60 000 visitors with a passion for all things sci-fi and spandex.

Those who’ve frequented local cons since the early 2000s have seen these gatherings grow from modest affairs in hotel ballrooms to an annual event proudly featuring the likes of Patrick Stewart and Nathan Fillion. But while Hollywood heavy-hitters are sure to draw in the crowds, it’s important not to overlook the ones who do the actual…well, drawing.

Yes, there was once a time – back before geekdom went mainstream – when comic book conventions were focused more on actual comic books than comic adaptations. Of course, those were the days when superheroes rarely made the transition to television let alone the big screen. Now, we can watch the adventures of Supergirl and Preacher from our living-rooms while Wonder Woman and the Guardians of the Galaxy battle at the multiplex for box office supremacy.

It’s impossible not to be excited about that, but as films like Batman V Superman have shown, adaptations can often pale in comparison to the source material. Why not then seize this opportunity to spend some time with the creative minds who’ve been fueling these franchises for decades and truly understand what makes these characters great?

Case in point: Ty Templeton. This Ontario-based Renaissance Man has worked in just about every area of the entertainment industry – and has the hilarious anecdotes to prove it – but is probably best known for helping to adapt the Emmy Award-winning Batman: The Animated Series for comics. The celebrated tie-in book, The Batman Adventures, debuted in 1992 and proved so popular DC kept it going for another twelve years, long after the animated series concluded its run in 1999.

Templeton provided scripts, covers and interior art for the all-ages book, which won several Eisner Awards during its run and is widely considered to feature some of the best Batman stories of all time. He’s also written for Bongo Comics’ Simpsons books and provided art for DC’s recent Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet series.

Templeton’s sense of humor and passion for comics is evident in all his work, but especially his weekly online comic strip Bun Toons, which cleverly comments on comic book culture and even politics in as few as six panels. If you happen upon his booth, don’t be surprised to see him regaling a group fans with one of his rousing stories. He’s an entertaining one to be sure.

…not that he’s the only one with stories to tell. Comics legend Neal Adams will also be in attendance and hosting a panel called The Sordid History of Comic Books. Having worked on characters as diverse as Tarzan, the X-Men, Green Lantern and Batman, he has a wealth of knowledge to share with both readers and aspiring comic artists.

In addition to having drawn Superman’s famous boxing match against Muhammad Ali and co-created the villain Ra’s Al Ghul, Adams is especially well regarded within the artistic community for having stood up to the big publishers in the 1970s to ensure creator’s rights were being respected. His efforts saw Avengers creator Jack Kirby and Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster get long-overdue credit for their contributions to the medium, and helped ensure today’s crop of comic book artists aren’t at the mercy of their employers. If anyone can speak to the industry’s sordid past and possibly brighter future, it’s him.

Archie Comics’ artists Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz, meanwhile, will be present to reflect on the adventures of the world’s oldest teenager, who just so happens to also have a new hit series on the CW network. If you haven’t checked out an Archie comic since your last visit to summer camp, rest assured that little has changed in his neck of the woods, except perhaps the variety of representation now featured.

Parent ushered Kevin Keller – Riverdale’s first openly gay resident – into the pages of Archie back in 2012. The character has since made the transition to all corners of the world of Archie after weathering an initial storm of controversy. Now, Parent and Ruiz are focused on their first creator-owned collaboration: a saucy series called Die Kitty Die! which came about through a successful 2015 Kickstarter campaign and sees their typically kid-friendly style take a walk on the wilder side.

Perhaps most fittingly, given Canada’s recent 150th birthday, attendees can get to know a bit about our own somewhat forgotten national superhero Captain Canuck, whose latest adventures are being scripted in part by Jay Baruchel. The former Montreal-based actor has invested in Chapterhouse Comics to help chart the course for this character, originally created in 1975.

These are but a few of the comic book writers and artists attending this weekend’s festivities. Walking through Artist’s Alley will also offer an opportunity to familiarize oneself with the work of local independent artists whose unique perspectives and enthusiasm for comics could very well lead them to success and fame down the road.

In short, great as the temptation may be to spend those hard-earned savings on autographed photos with the host of talented actors and actresses present, celebrating the creative minds at the hearts of these larger-than-life franchises is really what a comic book convention is all about.

Full guest and schedule details for the Montreal Comic Con, which runs through Sunday July 9th, is available at MontrealComicCon.com

* Featured image: The 2011 Montreal Comic Con main room, via WikiMedia Commons

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