Tucson Comic-Con returns for its third year Saturday, boasting an impressive lineup of comic writers and illustrators.
The event is a mix of local talent and artists from throughout the country.
"We're going for a very indie-feel," said Henry Barajas, one of this year's two organizers. "Everyone that's going to be there is self-publishing their own work."
Tucson's grass-roots comic convention is in stark contrast to some of the more Hollywood-oriented conventions of other Comic-Cons.
"At San Diego, it feels like with all the big name casts, no one cares about the comic creators anymore, and it's sickening to think that 10 years ago San Diego was all about the artists," he said.
Mike Olivares, 27, the event's director, agreed. "I'd rather wait in line to see my favorite artists and writers speak than wait hours to see Shia LaBeouf speak."
Tucson's lineup includes Ernest Romero, who did the artwork for a comic called "Girl Scouts in Space." Dave Baker co-founded Modern Mythology Press and does the art for the "Horrible Little People" comic. Eric Schock founded Evil Robe Productions, puts out a comic called "Ash Tray Comics" and has a graphic novel called "Bald Avenger."
"We have a huge untapped community of creators in Arizona," said Olivares. "I believe we're starting to get a lot of support for it."
Tucson Comic-Con started in 2008 and has attracted more artists and crowds each year. Barajas expects more than 800 people to converge at the Hotel Arizona downtown on Saturday. The event will move to the Tucson Convention Center next year.
"The only problem with expanding is eventually we will have to charge for tickets, when we've been holding this thing for free three years in a row," Olivares said. "At the end of the day, though, most of these conventions charge from $20 to $30, we'll only have to charge about $5 next year."
Olivares, who is a facilities manager at the Bookmans Entertainment Exchange on Grant Road, said he organized the entire event the first two years. "This year, Henry said he'd help and, considering the workload of the organizing, I said, 'Hey man, c'mon!' "
Barajas, 21, is in charge of promotion for Tucson Comic-Con, and he also writes comics and works a day job modifying mortgages. His current project is "El Loco," an independent comic he is working on with friend and illustrator Arnie Bermudez.
"El Loco," which will debut at the Comic-Con, is about a Mexican superhero and is meant to be a bit of a satire of SB 1070.
A preview of El Loco the character on Barajas' website shows his origin as the son of day laborers who are killed when they are caught in the crossfire between gangs and the local authorities. He later gains his superpowers via a farming accident.
"The whole idea came out of the SB 1070 issue and our ability to laugh at it," Bermudez said. "El Loco is kind of like a combination between Don Quixote and the Tick," he said, referring to a comic character created in the late '80s as a spoof on the superheroes.
El Loco discovers his superpowers as the story proceeds, he said. "El Loco is just as unsure of his powers as the reader, and it really is funny."
Tucson Comic-Con's biggest name will be John Layman, an award-winning comic writer whose work with illustrator Rob Guillory on an image book series called "Chew" is being considered for a possible television series.
"It's about a murder detective who gets psychic impressions from eating the remains of murder victims," Layman said. "So, he's kind of like a cannibal cop. But he's a good guy because he uses his strange talent as means to solve these gruesome murders and bring the killers to justice."
Layman said he's in talks with the creators of the just-premiered AMC zombie series "The Walking Dead" over rights to the comic. "Pretty much my comic being picked up for a series depends all on the success of "The Walking Dead," he said.
Layman and Guillory have finished 15 issues so far and expect to publish about 60, which would give the comic a six-year run.
"Chew is becoming strikingly popular," said Layman, 41, who lives in Phoenix and has worked for big companies such as DC and Marvel.
Another a big draw will be the documentary about Grant Morrison, a legendary comic book writer known for classics such as his 1989 "Arkham Asylum: A Serious Place on Serious Earth," along with others such as "The Invisibles." "Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods" premiered last month in New York City. The Tucson show will be the fourth time it is screened.
"The Grant Morrison movie is fantastic," Barajas said. "It really lets you know where his head was at when he did some of his work."
If you go
• What: Tucson Comic-Con includes comic creators, vendors, costumed groups such as the Arizona Avengers, and a screening of the new documentary "Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods."
• Where: The Hotel Arizona, 181 W. Broadway.
• When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.
• Admission: Free for Comic-Con, $6 for screening.
Where to find comics from featured artists
• Charlie's Comic Books, 5740 E. 22nd St.
• Fantasy Comics, 2595 N. First Ave.
• R-Galaxy, 2420 N. Campbell Ave.
• Heroes and Villains, 4533 E. Broadway.
Adam Lehrer is a University of Arizona student apprenticing at the Star. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org