Find A New Hero Series: Mike Hampton

Here at Con Sweet Con, we are pretty nerdy. That sometimes means we hesitate to come out of our shell, which when you are surrounded by thousands of people and are now face to face with talented folks, can mean we miss opportunities to really get in touch with both the art and the people behind the art and those folding tables. Our "Find a New Hero" series aims to break these barriers down and provide our readers insight into the minds and art featured at SDCC.

Personally I knew exactly where I wanted to start, Mike Hampton. I believe we first met four years ago at SDCC. After checking out his Hot Zombie Chicks comics and seeing his ability to draw con-goers on the spot, I knew I needed him to create something special for me. The piece was an American Gothic zombie portrait of my then fiance and myself. It was featured on our wedding programs for our Halloween wedding, and let me say it is my favorite piece of artwork we own.

Mike has been busy since we first me - making music, a documentary "I Dream of Being an Artist and It Makes Me Sick", and a mind blowing amount of amazing artwork. So let's delve into Mike Hampton's world:


Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Everywhere and anywhere. As an artist, I am always looking at things in a way that I could use them, or recreate them in my own artistic style. I look at the details of things, or the meaning behind things. Lately I have been looking at corporate advertising or corporate and entertainment establishments and how I could create some art that would somehow show their truer intentions, or dirty secrets. I also look at tons of comic book art when it comes time for working on a book. To really get inspired I look at some of my favorite artists like some of Bruce Timm’s Batman stuff, Darywn Cooke’s Parker, or New Frontier, and some Dan Brereton Nocturnals art.

What is your favorite work you have done?

Well, my most favorite is my newest stuff, a comic I created, wrote and drew myself called Eagle Eye & The Quail. It’s a superhero-comedy story of 2 guys following their passions, and realizing their own self-worth in the process. All the way from the writing to the coloring and artwork, I think it is hands down my best stuff. But the problem has been trying to market it. A superhero comedy with a premise of personal growth and self-worth is a hard pitch, and I haven’t really mastered how to sell it just yet. It is also hard getting most of my fans to get into it since it is so different from my last book, Hot Zombie Chicks, which is a horror genre. Although I did recently reprint some of my Captain A-hole’s Guide to Dating & Guide to Customer Service, and I have to say those books have held up and make me laugh. They are my funniest books, so they are a bit of my favs too.

"... personal growth and self-worth is a hard pitch" Really? Because I'm sold already!

What current work are you most excited about?

Definitely my Eagle Eye & The Quail book. I have released 3 issues so far, through my good friend and fellow artist Brandon Bracamonte’s “Smash-Bang Pulp” Double Feature comic. I am hoping to have the 1st 4 issues available in trade paperback by this summer. It will conclude the first story line, where we learn Eagle Eye’s origin, get introduced to all the funky characters, the city in which EE protects, and the battle with corporate fast-food chain giant Wac-Burger. The main villain in the story named Captain Un-cooked consists of a mutated glob of uncooked processed ground-up chicken meat. The story also has a sub-plot of GMO foods and how most of the food we have available to eat is soaked in some sort of chemical. So I’m trying to bring awareness to people about that, in an entertaining and subtle way.

From your movie it is very clear you are very busy. What is one thing you would like to pursue if you had additional free time?

Free time? Hah! I gave that up years ago... Last year I actually figured I’d cram more into my schedule and go back to school. I wanted to get my BA in Graphic Design so I could get professional work as a graphic designer as well as doing my own artwork. Mind you, graphic design isn’t my favorite way to express myself with art, but it does allow me to be artistic and apply my talents in a creative way. And I do really enjoy the art of design, logos, and typography. Plus the comic book industry is soooo competitive. It’s just like the movie industry really. Hundreds of thousands of artists who love comics want to draw comics for a living. Just like hundreds of thousands of actors/actresses who love movies want to act for a living. And half of getting into one of the forms of entertainment industry is who you know, and being in the right place at the right time. So I am hoping for that to work out for me, but I can’t only rely on that to work out for me.


Can we clarify for anyone who has not seen your movie what they should expect to see at your booth, at SDCC?

A lot has changed since my movie actually. During the time of the documentary I was fully working on my self-published comic titled Hot Zombie Chicks. It was selling really well for me and I was doing tons of shows all over the country selling it. Since then, I ended the series with 5 issues and collected them in a 72 pg trade paperback. So you can find that at my booth, along with some of the more popular HZC pinup prints for sale. I will have my newer title Eagle Eye & The Quail, in TPB, and in individual issues. Currently I have in development a 4th Captain A-hole Guide "The Captain A-hole Guide To College" since I have returned to college myself. So there is a high chance that will be there as well. In December of 2012 I released my 4th alternative/hip-hop album titled Captain A-hole “I’m Really A Nice Guy”. For those who don’t know in addition to drawing I am a huge rap star. I also have lots of prints of various pop-culture and comic book characters, like Batman, Spiderman, Deadpool, Adventure Time, Gremlins, Star Wars, etc. 

Love the animated version on Mike's website
What do you typically offer at your booth at SDCC? Is there typically any exclusive items?

Sometimes I have exclusives at SDCC. One year I had a Hot Zombie Chicks SDCC Exclusive statue by a talented sculptor named Leo Romero. Another year I had an exclusive Comic-Con EP with 3 new songs. Another year my fellow artist Brandon Bracamonte and I had exclusive zombie chick pinups that we collaborated on together. I try to have some new exclusive each year. This year I will most likely have an exclusive print, possibly some music, maybe an alternative SDCC cover to one of my books. 

Do you still draw people at your booth? And what does it cost?

Yes, I still draw people at my booth, only I’ve stopped with the zombie characters. Typically I would sketch people as a zombie for $5.00 at conventions. I actually started doing that since I was knee deep in the zombie world drawing Hot Zombie Chicks, putting together a Zombie Beauty Pageant for the Sacramento Horror Film Festival, and I even titled my 3rd album “Zombie”. Basically, I got zombied-out. I also felt like the zombie thing went so mainstream, that it wasn’t really unique anymore. So, since I have moved on to new things, like a super-hero book, I have started sketching people as superheroes for $5 at the cons. Of course, I’ve had people want to pay a bit more for more than just a sketch, which is great. It’s a great way to get to know my fans, have conversations with people, and really just kind of hang out and chat at my table. I put up a little sign, with a sketch of me looking like a ridiculous superhero, and people can just walk right up and point at the sign and get drawn.

When are you typically available to offer this?

Pretty much every convention I go to, I do this. I really enjoy it, although towards the end of my zombie days I was starting to get to feel like I was sick of drawing zombies. (another good reason to stop...) But basically, any con from open to close, or if I’m at my booth people can just walk right up and get drawn. Most of the times at larger conventions like San Diego, Wonder-Con, Emerald City, or the Phoenix Comic-Con, I end up having a wait time of about an hour. Usually how it works is people come up, mention they would like to get drawn, and I will sketch them in pencil in about 3 minutes. Then I let them know it will take about 10 minutes to ink in, so they are welcome to wait, or walk around and come back. This gives them the choice to hang and talk, or go find something else at the convention and come back when they are ready to pick up their drawing. It also gives me the flexibility to work other people into the wait time, since the person I just sketched is not standing there watching I can quickly sketch someone else and tell them to come back 20 minutes later. I usually do it this way and build it to about an hour wait. Sometimes, it have gotten so many people backed up that I have to say I am full for the day. In that case, I would direct them to my website, where someone can upload a picture and I can send them the drawing. Then they can just pay me online, and that usually works out great too.

Would it be possible to bring a picture of someone from home and have you sketch them for a personalized souvenir?

It is definitely possible. I have done that many times where I have drawn people from pictures, mostly pictures off of someone’s phone. It’s totally a unique way to bring someone that wasn’t at a convention something back. I have even drawn pets, or someone’s significant other. Some people have asked me to draw them as a certain superhero like Wonder-Woman, or the Hulk. When I was really heavy with the drawing zombies I think I drew anything you could imagine involving zombies. People have a pretty wild imagination. I drew this group of 3 friends as a 3-headed zombie, I drew a guy as the Big-Boy Burger Kid zombie. Couples sometimes would ask for me to draw one of them being human devoured by the other one who is a zombie. Same kind of thing for the superhero drawings - a couple might ask me to draw one as a villain and one as the hero. I have drawn babies from pictures as Wolverine. A lot of times I draw people as their “inner” superhero… meaning I’ll take a look at them and access what their super power is, and just go with that. Like if someone’s holding a coffee I might draw them shooting coffee out of a tank on their back and name them, “The Caffeinator!”

What other uses have people found for your designs? Tattoos... etc.

Tattoos, yes. Logos, album covers, business cards, Facebook profile pictures, Holiday Cards, advertising, website stuff, fliers, t-shirt designs, book covers, book interior illustrations, promotional poster art (like music shows, roller derby, etc.). A lot of people just ask me for personal commissions for their own personal wants/needs, like your American Gothic Halloween Wedding program. It could be for a baby shower if someone wanted that. Right now I am working on artwork for a rpg card game using several different styles of fighting called “Ronin’s Khumite”. Another project I am working on is a book called “After Alcatraz”, which is a book full of my illustrations of different and alternative things to do in San Francisco besides all the heavy touristy things.


What is your favorite autograph or collectable you’ve picked up at a convention?

I have a couple that make it hard to choose from. One of them is my original Bruce Timm drawing of “a girl”. I couldn’t really think of a particular female character I wanted for him to draw, but I knew I wanted a Bruce Timm female. So I asked him to just draw a girl. “A…girl”… he replied. Then he whipped up the most seductive looking face of a woman. My other favorite item is my Spiderman #50 (which to me is the best cover) signed by Stan Lee. I am hoping to get it signed by John Romita someday soon. That particular cover for those who don’t know is the one where Peter Parker is walking towards the reader, and Spiderman has his back to the reader looking over his shoulder, and the cover reads “Spiderman No More!”. That cover is so special to me in fact, I have it tattooed on my right arm by my buddy Brandon Bracamonte aka “The Bracamonster”.

For our readers who have seen “I Dream of Being an artist... and it makes me sick”, how have things changed since you completed the documentary?

Things have changed quite a lot, actually. At the time the documentary was over I was just about to release the 4th issue of HZC, I had just came back from SDCC, was working full-time for a major health service carrier, and living in Sacramento, CA. Since then, I quit my job, sold 90% of my things, moved to Eastern Canada with the lovely woman in my life. From there we moved and did a lot of travelling across Canada and the U.S, and then, ended up in Berkeley, CA. I completed the HZC series and started a new book Eagle Eye & The Quail. I branched out my artistic skills into coloring comics and colored such titles as “Won & Phil”, (H)afrocentric, and most notably Bracamonte’s “The Mustache Ride”. I contributed to Topps trading cards and did sketch cards for their Mars Attacks and Star Wars: Galactic Files card sets. I launched my graphic design business “No Halo Art and Design” doing lots of freelance graphic design work. I recorded and released my 4th and final album under the name “Captain Asshole” - I do plan to work on more music, I’m just not sure about the name yet. I also came to a new way of walking in the world, trying to be healthier with my life choices. At the end of that movie I was partying pretty hard, and I believe it was starting to take its toll. I also had to quit my job that, although it paid really well, was really making me a depressed person. It hasn’t been the easiest time since then, but it has been quite a journey I’ll tell you that. It makes for a great story! There is some developmental talk about doing a sequel to the film, since so much has changed since then. It would show what I have done since then, and it would also spend a lot of time showing where the other artists like Age Scott, Brandon Bracamonte, Paul Allen, and Dj Lotis, that had appearances in the first film are with their art too. In fact, we are thinking of calling it, “I Dream Of Being An Artist, too…”
  

If you haven't already, make sure you check out, "I Dream of Being an artist... and it makes me sick". Mike is heartfelt, funny, and honest. I really enjoyed seeing the process an artist goes through just to attend conventions as an artist. It was especially grounding to see how the cons appeared from behind the table. Please make sure hit up Mike Hampton's site, www.thereisnohalo.com, or at mikehamptontheartist@facebook.com, mikehampton.deviantart.com, and don't miss him at SDCC 13! If we get any word about those booth exclusives we'll let you know first, right Mike? ;)

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