In order to reveal their true identities, comic artists sought to remove the mask of anonymity at this year’s Albuquerque Comic Expo.

Stephen McCranie, a UNM studio art graduate, has been drawing comics since before he knew how to write.

“I would draw the comics, then my mom would fill in the speech bubbles for me,” he said. “Now I do everything. It takes about nine months to complete a book.”

While a student at UNM, McCranie said he submitted short comics to the Daily Lobo as part of a web series. One day a publisher noticed his work and thought it would make a great Kickstarter project, he said.

“Kickstart Comics” is a program that helps independent creators publish work directly to the consumer, said McCranie.

“The first two books were picked up for the scholastic book fair,” he said. “If you go to the UNM book store, they have a bunch of my books. It’s really cool to see my work there on the shelf.”

Now a published comic writer of his “Mal and Chad” series, he feels very fortunate to have been given the opportunity. He said being able to present his work at an event like ACE is a dream come true.

Genevieve Garcia de Mueller, a UNM PhD candidate and member of Albuquerque Browncoats, a “Firefly” fan club and charity, said she was excited to represent the club for the first time at the expo.

“This is my first year here at the booth,” said Garcia. “But I’ve been involved with the group for a couple of years now.”

Garcia de Mueller said it was great to be involved in such a fun group and for a great cause.

“Every year (Browncoats) does a benefit for Equality Now and a local charity,” said Garcia de Mueller. “They put together this event every year, which is really cool because it benefits a bunch of charities.”

Garcia de Mueller said 75 percent of their proceeds go directly to a charitable organization. This year, proceeds will benefit the UNM Children’s Hospital.

John Michael Poling, publisher of Dos Guerros Comics, said there is a lot more than just comics at this convention.

“It’s everything nerdy and geeky,” Poling said. “It’s awesome and really cool.”

Poling works with photographer Joel Wigelsworth to create two series of comic books called “Hunters” and “Token of Grace”, he said.

“‘Token of Grace’ is an autobiographical series about my young adult life, my teenage life, being a gay man in the Army in New Mexico and things I have to say and the stories I have to tell,” Poling said.

Poling and Wigelsworth have been working diligently on this series for the past year, he said.

“Being self-sufficient comes out to altogether about $600 to $700 dollars with the printing equipment, and I print generally an amount of whatever sells,” Poling said.

Printing 50 copies of his comic took three days of cutting and stapling the finished product, he said.

Wigelsworth, an American studies major and employee at UNM, said Poling came up with the idea for doing an original comic three years ago.

“At that time he couldn’t draw, so he said, ‘Hey, what if we do photos and we just alter them to make them look more comic book style?’” Wigelsworth said. “I was like, ‘that sounds awesome.’”

The duo experienced their fair share of setbacks trying to get the project off the ground, he said.

“We went through re-writes, we had some cast members sort of bail out, which made us have to start over, so it took a while to get the whole thing off the ground,” Wigelsworth said.

The inspiration for the art and photos comes primarily out of Poling’s imagination, he said.

“I try as hard as I can to capture his ideas through my lens,” Wigelsworth said.

Casey Butler, UNM graduate in studio art, said she became a freelance and professional illustrator after getting her degree.

“I actually didn’t draw at UNM, which is surprising,” she said. “It’s something that kind of came later.”

Being able to create something new and original is what keeps Butler drawing, she said.

“I found out about ACE as a result of attending last year as a spectator,” she said. “So I wanted to represent my art at one of the tables for the next event.”

The process for Butler was easy and affordable when it came to getting a spot on artist’s row, she said.

“All of my ‘Battlestar’ prints were something that I didn’t see represented a lot, so I thought that was something I would try out,” Butler said.

Over 100 hours of preparation and drawing went into Butler’s preparation for the expo, she said.

“This is what I do full-time. I plan on coming back to the next ACE event next year,” Butler said. “I am a nerd for life. Once you’re in it you stay in it.”

Stephen Montoya is the culture editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at or @StephenMontoya9.

Tomas Lujan is the assistant culture editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at or @TomasVLujan