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“This is the first year that I’ll be coming in under a professional badge,” says local comic writer Carolyn Watson Dubisch. “My plans are to hand out preview copies of my books and, as dorky as this sounds, make friends.”

Carolyn — in her late 30s, with three children — says, “My books are for all ages. There are always a lot of children at these things, and since I sell picture books as well as comics, I see a look of relief on parents’ faces when they come to our table.”

What are Carolyn’s hopes for her first Comic-Con as a genuine badge-bearing comic pro?

“I have two series. The first is a children’s comic called The Horribles, a very gothic series about things that go bump in the night. Most of the characters are monsters and animals, [like] the Creature from Under the Bed, Sylvia the horrible witch girl, and Fang, an outcast of a monster who likes to bathe and smell nice.”

Carolyn’s other comic, The People That Melt in the Rain, illustrated by her husband Mike, won a Drunk Duck award for Best All Ages Comic of 2010. “It’s a fantasy story that mostly focuses on life in a cursed town in the Midwest,” she says. She later emails a capsule synopsis:

The moment that 12-year-old Laura arrives in her new hometown of Deluge, a rain of large green frogs falls from the sky. In the days that follow, she discovers a forest of tiny creatures in her neighbor’s cupboard, and a terrible curse upon the whole town. An old witch and the town’s weatherman struggle for power, and it’s up to Laura to save the people that melt in the rain.

Says Carolyn, “It appeals to teens and adults, but keeps in mind a younger audience.”

In addition to being available as traditional printed comics, both series have been running for years as weekly webcomics and are available as ebooks for the Nook, the Kindle, the iPad, and other digital platforms. The first issue of The People That Melt in the Rain is also available in Spanish. “Both Mike and I are semi-fluent, and that audience is important to us. We’d love to reach other foreign-language markets as well.”

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Besides illustrating The People That Melt in the Rain, Carolyn’s husband Mike Dubisch writes and draws for indie publishers such as IDW and Monsterverse.

Spongebob Strangepants, by Mike Dubisch

“This will be my sixth time at Comic-Con,” says the longtime comic collector. After landing his first pro gig coloring comics at age 16, Mike attended the School of Visual Arts in New York, studying with renowned comic creators such as Will Eisner (The Spirit) and Walt Simonson (Thor).

Dubisch placed work in the horror anthology Gore Shriek and elsewhere, then “I drew covers for Aliens vs. Predator comics, and I became involved in illustrating for RPG [role-playing game] books and miniature toys based on Star Wars, Dungeons and Dragons, the DC Universe, and Rifts.” He also wrote, drew, and self-published a full-length graphic novel, Weirdling.

At this year’s Con, Mike wants to spread awareness of Classics Mutilated, a book of short prose that he illustrated for local publisher IDW, as well as his own H.P. Lovecraft–inspired The Black Velvet Necronomicon, a limited-edition art book that will be for sale at the always-massive Bud Plant booth on the main floor.

“Since I already work as a freelancer, I don’t expect anything to happen that changes my daily life. But there’s a lot of potential to land more exciting projects, with higher exposure.”

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James Ninness is a native San Diegan with a degree in creative writing from Cal State University Long Beach. He lives in La Mesa with his wife and two young daughters.

“I’ve been to the San Diego Con every year for the last five years and would be hard pressed to miss it,” says the 29-year-old. “I got into creating and writing comics about two years ago. Thus far, I’ve been fortunate enough to have several comics published through Semantink, a local San Diego company.

“My first book is Mythoi, a 60-issue tale wherein various mythologies are thrust together and must learn how to help one another.” Formerly illustrated by Jed Soriano, currently drawn by Kevin Warwick, the first four issues have already been collected as a graphic novel (Mythoi Book 1: Birth).

Ninness also wrote a six-issue post-apocalyptic western called Dust, featuring art by John Narcomey (Smart Bullets, Ghostface). He’s served as creator and one of five writers for The Undergrounds, a weekly webcomic.

“My goal at Comic-Con is simple: networking. I’m very happy with Semantink Publishing, so while I’m always looking for work, I won’t be pitching at every opportunity. I believe one of the smartest things creators can do is simply to meet other creators.”

He says Comic-Con changed his life forever. “The single greatest moment I ever had was when Semantink hired several volunteers to hand out Mythoi posters outside [the convention center], at the trolley stop. We ended up getting a lot of enthusiastic support that day, and I remember thinking ‘I can do this.’”

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“I’m a bit of a newbie and just getting into comic art,” says commercial illustrator Rich Kuhaupt, a longtime pre-press technician for the Union-Tribune. “I don’t expect I’ll be ‘discovered’ at Comic-Con, but that doesn’t mean my life wouldn’t change with the right contact or opportunity.”

The 54-year-old former Marine used comic-style artwork back when he was creating training manuals for the audio-visual departments at Camp Pendleton, Coronado, and MCRD. “After I left the service, I found work as a graphic artist for defense contractors. I spent several years creating training materials for the instructors at the Navy Fighter Weapons School — Top Gun — where we used cartoons to illustrate the pilots’ lesson plans.”

Along the way, Kuhaupt also worked on PS Magazine, a long-running U.S. Army maintenance periodical famed in comic circles for a cartoon-heavy 1950s run (over 350 issues) spearheaded by Will Eisner, whose comics are so revered that Comic-Con’s annual trophy ceremony is named the Eisner Awards.

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