San Diego Comic-Con has become synonymous with superheroes, celebrities and colorful costumes. But tucked inside the Convention Center's Exhibit Hall is where you'll find the stars that actually inspired Comic-Con -- the artists themselves.
Each year, dozens of artists set up shop along "Artists' Alley" to promote their comic books, graphic novels and other creative endeavors to the thousands of people who pass by.
With SDCC 2020 officially canceled, those artists are missing out on an opportunity to get the eyes of both their regular customers and some unlikely buyers.
“They’ll walk by my Artists’ Alley table and they don’t want to pay attention, but they kind of turn their head to see, like, 'What is that,'" said artist Beth Sotelo. "So that’s kinda fun. It’s like, 'Ah, I got your attention.'”
Sotelo is the creator of the graphic novel "Grump" about a young curmudgeon.
“I started drawing this guy when we first moved to San Diego. I went from drawing in a studio environment to working at home by myself. So, lo and behold, I draw this little character who’s like, oh he has no friends, he’s all by himself.”
Comic-Con definitely changed that, helping both Grump and Sotelo to rack up more than a few fans.
"A couple years ago, Instagram was going around Artists’ Alley and I had no idea, but then they did some little blog thing on me, and my followers shot up," Sotelo said. “You just have to be ready for these little shooting star moments.”
Unfortunately this year, with Comic-Con canceled, those shooting stars will be a little harder to catch.
"It is upsetting, to say the least,” said artist Bobby Rubio.
The San Diego native has been going to Comic-Con since he was 10 or 11 years old.
‘Every year I would go meet my idols. Every year, I would go, "That’s what I’m gonna be. I’m gonna be a comic book artist. I’m gonna tell stories,'” Rubio said.
He got his first job in comics through the 'Con, with Dark Horse Comics.
For 15 years, he also had a booth on Artists' Alley to promote his own comic books, "Alcatraz High" and "4Gun Conclusion."
Rubio even credits Comic-Con with helping him to land his current job as a story artist at Pixar, where he recently wrote and directed his first animated short, "Float."
“A buddy of mine was working at Pixar and I’m just hanging out after the Comic-Con," Rubio said. "I’m at the Omni Hotel just hanging out, and he comes up to me and is like 'Hey man, we’re looking for story artists at Pixar. Do you wanna go?' I’m like, 'Yeah I do!'”
Rubio said he doesn't think he'd be where he is today if it hadn't been for his experiences at Comic-Con.
"The personal interaction with your fan base, and just getting feedback directly, I think is definitely important,” Rubio said.
“It’s such a huge convention and we’re all gonna miss it a lot,” she said.
To support artists like Sotelo and Rubio, The San Diego Comic-Con Unofficial Blog has created an Online Artists' Alley.
It includes the websites and social media handles for the dozens of artists who would have been on the Alley this year.
Comic-Con is also planning to publish its annual souvenir program book and make it available for free download online.
Any artists who are interested in submitting their work for consideration have until Friday, May 1 at 11:59 PM to do so. Click here for more information.
‘Now we’re finding ourselves without an outlet so we’re trying to reach out, and these conventions that are doing these artist spotlights are really helpful,” Sotelo said.