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Author Fri Mar 06 2015

Chicago Artist Justin Castaneda On Fan Fests And The Funny Pages

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Image courtesy of Justin Castaneda

Get ready to fan the flames of your fandom this weekend at Wizard World Fan Fest Chicago 2015. It's the first fan convention of its kind in Chicago, and is a "Fang (or Thank) You" to devoted Wizard World fans and con attendees. It's loaded with enough celebs and artists to ensure that everyone will geek out on the convention floor. Fan Fest Chicago runs March 7-8 at Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Rd. in Rosemont. Here's the event and panel schedule for the weekend.

Aside from stars like "The Walking Dead's" Norman Reedus and "Orange Is The New Black's" Taryn Manning, Fan Fest Chicago will feature local artists like Justin Castaneda. Castaneda, who is a writer/illustrator from the south side of Chicago, is the creator of the When I Was Little picture book series and HEART. He is currently the illustrator for Wonder Care Presents: The Kinder Guardians with writer Victor Dandridge and Vantage InHouse Productions. He is also a featured artist in comic properties such as Aw Yeah Comics, Omega Comics Presents, and Scratch 9.

I asked Castaneda about his work and upcoming convention trips. Read on to learn more about this homegrown talent.

Please tell our readers about the When I Was Little series.

When I Was Little is a children's picture book series about childhood. Creating the series was a way for me to remember all the things I did when I was little. It's really a series for all-ages. Parents who bought the books for their children related to a lot of the imagery I put in the books and it was a nice way for them to pass along those same kinds of memories they had when they were little.

Do you have a favorite collaborator (for comics or any other projects)?

I am currently working with Victor Dandridge on a comic series called Wonder Care Presents: The Kinder Guardians. We just wrapped up Issue 2. That has been my favorite thing because Victor is so great to work with. He's very open to a lot of the ideas I have and we've developed the characters and the world they play in together. When you work with someone who is a real motivator that gets behind you 110 percent, that kind of energy makes for endless creative possibilities.

I love your movie-inspired bookmarks, and I see that you also do posters. Do you have a favorite medium?

Thanks, if you follow me on Instagram, you'll see that I work a lot with a brown card stock that I call a #cardBOREDsketch. I like drawing on that because of the texture and I can use white ink which can make things really pop. I have also started playing with water colors again.

Who are some local artists/writers whose work you admire?

It's really amazing to see Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani build something as expansive and wonderful as Aw Yeah Comics, and not just the store (in beautiful Downtown Skokie) but the comic series as well. I had the opportunity to create some stories for the Aw Yeah Crew and they've been nothing but wonderful. And whenever Skottie Young puts out a new comic, variant cover, or daily sketch my jaw hits the floor. He is amazing. I'd say that anytime those three do anything creative, it motivates me to be better.

What's it like to be on the convention circuit? What will you be showing/selling at Wizard World Fan Fest?

It's a lot of work, especially if you travel for shows. You can get exhausted but if you're having fun and connecting with people who like what you are doing, it fuels you up, keeps you going. Whenever I do a show I get in a zone that doesn't require sleep or food until after the show is over, then I crash pretty hard and rest up until I have to do it all over again. I'll be selling my children's books and a lot of the comic projects I have worked on. I also do commissions at the show and sell those #cardBOREDsketches I mentioned earlier.

Do you have any upcoming releases or works-in-progress?

Victor sent me the script for Issue 3 of Wonder Care and I recently launched a web comic based on the series called, Wonder Care: After School, which is reminiscent of the Sunday Funnies I used to read in the paper when I was a kid. I also have a new When I Was Little book in the pipeline that will be a best of collection along with some new material.

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