Comic book fans of all ages will get the chance Friday to see their favorite characters come to life.
Artist and writer Katie Cook will be at Challengers Comics and Conversation, 1845 N. Western Ave. in Bucktown for the Dec. 14 opening of an art exhibit at the shop's Rogues Gallery. She will be on hand for a reception from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. to sign books, meet fans and do custom mini-watercolor paintings.
Cook has had work published as an artist for franchises such as Star Wars and Fraggle Rock, and has written for My Little Pony. She was recently honored for her web comic, Gronk. However, it was her quick mini-paintings on small pieces of card stock that attracted the attention of Challengers co-owners W. Dal Bush and Patrick Brower in their search for artists to feature in the gallery.
"Like anybody who's met her at a convention, we end up buying them all the time, and every year we end up finding stuff on her table or asking her to do commissions," Bush said. "We've had her in for signings in the past, and she's just a really great person. We like having her around. It's the sort of talent where we come up with ideas on ways that we can have her back in the store."
Cook has made a name for herself at comic conventions across the country by offering to do on-the-spot sketches of any character a fan requests. During the past few months, she's created around 600 of them for the Rogues Gallery—an estimate Cook came up with by looking at the stack of paintings she's accumulated.
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According to Bush, there will be 469 mini-paintings on display.
Because of Cook's signature cutesy art style, Bush said he expects to see a different age range than most openings at the gallery.
"Usually with our openings, since we'll serve beer and wine, we tended to make them 21 and older—not strictly enforced, but we try and shy away kids from coming," Bush said. "But obviously, Katie's done so much all-ages stuff that it would be inappropriate for us to say, 'No kids allowed.'"
The Rogues Gallery opened in November 2010 as a result of Bush and Brower's desire to showcase original work by comic creators, rather than just the prints and mass-market finished products that are more commonly available.
"There's a different level of artistry when you peel away the colors and the letters and all the resizing and stuff, and you can just see what one person or two people did on a page," Bush said. "And that's the sort of thing that I think a lot of people don't get a lot of exposure to. So we definitely wanted to make that something that more people could experience."
Cook's exhibit will remain on display until at least the end of December, although Bush said there is no set end date for it yet. Depending on how quickly the paintings sell and how many are left to display, he said her work could potentially stay up in the gallery until mid-January.