Artist K. Lynn Smith, from Mason, talks about her art Saturday, May 18, at Motor City Comic Con in Novi.

Artist K. Lynn Smith, from Mason, talks about her art Saturday, May 18, at Motor City Comic Con in Novi.

Photo by Brian Wells

Artists, celebrities from Michigan took many paths to get to Motor City Comic Con

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published May 21, 2024

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NOVI — People from all over the world came to the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi May 17-19 to attend the Motor City Comic Con and have the chance to meet their favorite celebrities and comic book artists.

Some of those celebrities and artists were Michigan natives, and they took the time to share how they got to be featured at “Michigan’s largest pop-culture event,” along with some words of advice for those aspiring to follow in their footsteps.

Comic artist Jay Fosgitt, of Westland, said he always knew he wanted to write comics and said he has a really special connection to the con. He recalled attending the very first Motor City Comic Con in Dearborn, back in 1989, at the age of 14.

“It was just the most amazing experience,” Fosgitt said. “Even back then, I knew I wanted to be in comics. I thought I wanted to do comic strips, but I was always a big fan of comic books, and then coming here, which was my first major comic convention, it inspired me.  I’m like, ‘Maybe I can do comic books.’ It’s not just people doing superheroes. There’s cartoony guys like me who draw like animation style, I guess you would say, and so it was very inspiring to me.”

He said he kept coming back to MC3 regularly, and then in 2008 he broke into the comics industry, and MC3 was one of the first shows he attended as a professional artist as well.

“It was just such an amazing sort of full-circle moment for me,” he said.

Fosgitt said he always knew he wanted to be a cartoonist, but he didn’t know how he was going to get there. He said he drew caricatures for parties when he was younger and did cartoons for a couple of college newspapers, and eventually he made his first graphic novel. He said he found a publisher for it at a con in Chicago and eventually started networking with some of the major artists that come to MC3, and he became professional friends with them.

“So doing conventions, particularly this one, has been extremely important to my career,” Fosgitt said.

Fosgitt, who has worked for such corporations as Marvel, Disney and the Jim Henson Co., said he encourages aspiring comic artists to create their own comic books. He said many of the young artists they meet aspire to work for Marvel or DC. However, he recommends that they create their own books instead.

“It doesn’t matter how polished or perfect it is. Create your own thing and bring it to conventions and show it to artists like myself. Get feetback. Get encouragement and start networking, because networking is like 99% of how I got into the industry and the rest was talent and perseverance,” Fosgitt said. “That’s what I encourage young artists to do. Come out and talk to us. That’s why we are here. We want to meet new creators. We want to meet young people that want to get into comics and encourage them and tell them whatever knowledge we might have that could help.”

K. Lynn Smith, a comic artist from Mason, said she got her start in the business thanks to the encouragement of Deana Morse, who was an animation professor at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, who pushed Smith to enter her work in contests and to get out of her comfort zone. She said Morse pushed her to enter a storyboard contest, which is very similar to comic books, and that is how she got her start in the business.

Smith said she loves meeting people at the cons and seeing returning faces. She said she hasn’t done MC3 in a while, but that the MC3 staff are great to work with.

“Being in this room inspires me,” Smith said. “Seeing all the different art and, like, seeing how different people are doing their projects and their approach is an inspiration for me.”

Martin Klebba, who portrayed Marty in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie franchise, grew up in Troy. Klebba said he attended Troy Athens High School and he discovered his love for acting thanks to his drama instructor, Krista Manfredi, who encouraged him to perform in the high school’s production of “Peter Pan.”

He said when he was a young man he had wanted to become a police officer, but in his second year attending Oakland University for criminal justice, a teacher pulled him aside and informed him that he could never be a cop because of his short stature and the height regulations in the industry at the time. So he went on to Broadway and eventually made his way to Los Angeles, and thanks to his connections, discovered that he really liked the motion picture industry. He said he would never recommend anyone go into the industry today, as it is really difficult to get into. However, if someone does still desire to, he said to get acclimated to self-taped auditions, as those have become standard in the industry.

He said that many little people think they should go into the industry and just take any role just to be on film.

“It’s like, no. If you’re going to have them laugh, they’ve gotta be laughing with you, not at you,” Klebba stressed. “You got to have good comedic timing. I feel like too many people wanna make a buck and get out. They’re willing to do anything, like ‘Jackass.’”

Robert Dieterate, who grew up in Michigan and is one of the writers of OMG comics, said he got into comics by default. Dieterate said he owns a construction company and was asked to help finance a woman’s book. However, after the woman only completed nine pages, Dieterate was left with the task of completing it, and therefore entered the industry.

“I learned that to make a comic book, it’s $5,000 before you print it,” Dieterate said.

Dieterate said he would advise comic artists and writers to always save all their work, because you never know what could be worth something someday.

“Just do what you love,” Dieerate said he would advise young people today.

Johnathan Rand, of Grayling, writes horror books and owns a shop that solely carries his work.

“I think I was inspired by all the authors I read. I would get excited when I read a good story, and I would think, ‘Man I wish I could write like that,’” Rand said.

Rand advises those who seek to be a writer to write every day.

“Five minutes a day can be beneficial. It’s like anything else: The more you do it, the better you will get at it. Write when you don’t want to write. It’s a discipline and that’s one of the things I found out a long time ago is that if you want to produce, if you want to write, you have to write even when you don’t feel like writing,” Rand said. “The other thing I say is to read every day. If you want to write scary books, read all kinds of scary stuff. Don’t just read one author that you’re into, but expand … because it helps you create your own unique author’s voice.”

WWE wrestler Ethan Page moved to Michigan two years ago from Canada and now resides in Milford. He said he wanted to eliminate the constant border crossing, as he is a frequent traveler, but its close proximity to the border enables his family to visit him frequently.

“It was the perfect place for us. … I like all the lakes, the parks all over. … It’s just beautiful,” Page said of his Michigan home.

Page said he was attracted to MC3 as it is one of the best cons in America and just a 20-minute drive from his home.

He advises aspiring wrestlers that the sport will break their heart a million times, but the victories are always worth it.

“If it’s something you love, it’s always worth chasing,” Page said.

Erik Hodson, an illustrator from Grosse Pointe, said he “just loves telling stories.”

“I want to make stuff that children nowadays can enjoy, just like I enjoyed stuff when I was a kid,” Hodson said. “I want to just tell exciting stories and just give people a break from the world and some entertainment.