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Local comic creators to watch at HeroesCon 2011

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Complain all you want about Charlotte (our sucky public transportation system and sucky football team, for example), but when it comes to our fair city's annual comic book convention — HeroesCon — we can definitely brag that we host a truly word-class affair.

Started in 1982 by Shelton Drum, owner of the Charlotte-based comic book shop Heroes Aren't Hard to Find, HeroesCon has steadily grown to become one of the industry's most beloved gatherings. Not only is it a place that the biggest publishers and comic book retailers in the business flock to, but it's also a major destination for some of the world's top comic artists, writers and more; superstars like Adam Hughes, Matt Fraction, Jim Rugg, Ethan Van Sciver, Tim Sale, Jason Pearson, Terry Moore, Darwyn Cooke, Neal Adams and Frank Cho, among many, many, many others, are scheduled to zoom into town for this year's event.

Yes, June 3-5, we're set to be invaded by a serious influx of out-of-town talent — but don't get it twisted: Charlotte is home to a growing cadre of comic book greats. And at this year's convention, a handful of rising "greats" with Q.C. ties will be in attendance. Here's our list of people to keep an eye on:

Bridgit Scheide: Known around town as both a musician and the writer/artist behind the fantasy-based comic Kindle, Scheide has most recently been scripting, drawing and coloring her creator-owned supernatural title Brother Nash. Starring a Native American truck driver, Nash started life as a Web comic (www.webcomicsnation.com/bridgitalldigital/brothernash), but according to Scheide, the book will soon take on a more tactile format — in the form of a physical one-shot comic book. And this fall, she's starting work on a project for the "visual and auditory art" company Westhavenbrook Productions.

Dustin Harbin: A longtime Charlotte resident and a guy who used to work behind the scenes at HeroesCon, Harbin's reputation and talent has increased exponentially over the last few years. He keeps busy by doing work for the big guys over at Marvel Comics (as the letterer for the comic book Casanova) and on his own autobiographical comics (found online at Dharbin.com and most recently collected in the book Diary Comics No. 1). In the not-so-distant future, he promises more of the same — and some brand-new stuff. "I'll be putting together a color collection of some of my comic strips," says Harbin, "and beginning work on some long-form comics for the first time."

Chrissie Zullo: Fans of DC Comics' Fables franchise undoubtedly recognize Zullo's work, as it's graced many covers from that particular family of titles. Zullo (a UNC Charlotte graduate), along with other members of the group Sketch Charlotte, most recently released an anthology comic on Free Comic Book Day (which features some of her exclusive, never-before-seen stuff). But if you missed snagging a copy on FCBD, don't fret — she'll have leftovers on hand at HeroesCon.

John Hairston: Hairston has gained notoriety around town not for being a comic book artist, but for being an artist who creates comic-influenced paintings. He's currently putting the finishing touches on a new exhibit coming to Baku (in Noda) this September that he's describing as a "Norman Rockwell tribute show." Keep your eyes peeled for more details at: Allcitystudios.com.

Jason Latour, Chris Brunner and Rico Renzi: Creative Loafing mentioned this trio of creators a few issues ago (in our guide to summer comics), and that's because they're the force behind the upcoming Southern crime limited series Loose Ends (hitting stands in July). The new series promises to be one hell of a read, with Latour serving as writer, Brunner providing the art and Renzi laying down the color. But these guys have got more in store.

On top of coloring Loose Ends, Renzi is working on "three graphic novels for Scholastic drawn by Nathan Fox that I have to finish by the end of summer." In addition, as part of the Heroes staff, he's also working as an organizer of this year's convention ... and beyond. "HeroesCon planning never really stops ... look for dates and some great guest announcements for 2012 soon!"

And Latour, an amazing artist in his own right (taking care of art chores on comics like Wolverine, Scalped and more), is scheduled to draw a short story for Marvel Comics that's tied to the company's blockbuster summer event, Fear Itself, and then he starts work on some other big-time projects. "I'm about to begin my next immediate gig at Marvel, which is a tad bigger and involves a real fan favorite character that I've got some experience with already. I'll have news on that to announce soon," says Latour. "I also just signed onto something that's pretty big to me as an artist and fan. I can't say just what it is yet, but ... it involves possibly my all-time favorite comics creator and a chance to contribute to his sandbox."

HeroesCon takes place June 3-5 at the Charlotte Convention Center. For times, a full guest list, programming details and to purchase tickets, visit www.heroesonline.com.

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