When it began 42 years ago in San Diego, Comic-Con was a tiny gathering for hard-core comic book fans. These days the four-day blowout—which starts on July 12—has become a locus of geek culture for movie studios, toy manufacturers, and video game companies eager to flog their wares to the more than 100,000 attendees. It’s a place where small artists can get buried—or discovered.
Based near Inglewood, Shing Yin Khor will make her transition from eager convention attendee to featured artist with her quirky Web comic, Marlowe the Monster. Khor sculpts adorable, expressive clay characters, which she photographs as they suffer through layoffs, bad dates, and life’s other mundanities. Her two-inch anthropomorphic globs are endearing, and they’ve been grabbing attention at art shows and smaller conventions around L.A. She beat out hundreds of other applicants to win a spot in Comic-Con’s coveted Small Press exhibition. A former theatrical set and prop designer, Khor draws much of her inspiration from pop culture. “A lot of people think Marlowe is quite unique,” she says, “but if I listed all my influences—which range from Wallace and Gromit to dollhouse furniture to autobiographical Web comics to sci-fi monsters—I think it’s pretty clear where my aesthetic comes from.”
She’ll be joining local writers and artists like Sam Humphries, whose self-published sci-fi satire, Our Love Is Real, landed him a deal for the original series Higher Earth, along with brothers Shane and Chris Houghton, whose popular western comedy Reed Gunther—about a cowboy and his grizzly bear steed—led to a new paperback collection. The comic legitimized them, says Shane, “and now we’re able to pitch new ideas to publishers and studios.” As for Khor, a studio deal would be swell, but her strategy is a little broader than that: “I hope to be a total rock star and charm people into buying my art while not catching a cold.”
Photograph by Dustin Snipes