Alter Egos is a column that highlights talented geeks in the Chattanooga area, tracing the origins of their favorite pop culture obsessions to their present-day hobbies.
Andy Duggan’s love of comics started at a young age, thanks to his dad-who would read them to him as a kid-and classic ’90s cartoons such as “Super Friends,” “Batman” and “X-Men.”
“Comics were never shunned in my house,” Duggan said. “It was just part of my life, and my friends were into the same things, so I never considered myself a geek … until I got a little older.”
The moment he knew he was a geek was when Duggan realized that not everyone knew Mark Hamill voiced the Joker in the “Batman” cartoon, in addition to being Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” franchise.
“I think I was just born with the geek badge on, and it took getting older to realize that not everyone has the same badge,” Duggan said. “But I knew what mine was and that I loved what it meant.”
As far as being a geek, he thinks it’s always been great and is better now that it’s on a larger scale.
“There will always be those who wish it was less mainstream,” he said. “To maintain the health of our community, we can’t become reclusive and stagnate.”
A lasting impression
Duggan’s first love was comics, but they weren’t easy to come by growing up, so he had to rely on other resources to get his fix.
“When my family would go on vacation, we would always go to antique stores, and inevitably, they would have an old dusty box with comics in grimy sleeves,” Duggan said. “I loved these and would look for anything with Aquaman on the cover-who was and is still my favorite character.”
Those dusty and dog-eared pages inspired Duggan to attempt his own art and led to him consuming any comic, regardless of the brand.
From fan to full-time artist
Duggan started drawing in middle school, and he counts both Disney and Lucasfilm as early influences. He put the hobby on the backburner when he was in a band during high school and college. But when the band dissolved, he began pursuing his art in earnest.
“That’s when I said if I’m going to do this, then I need to step it up,” he said. “I started my web comic ‘Seaclops Comics,’and I used that as sort of a portfolio that landed me the job being the featured artist at Con Nooga-and it just snowballed from there.”
The initial art he did for Con Nooga is now a staple of the con, and he was a featured artist in 2016.
“The Choo-Choo Transformer is now like a mascot for the con, and I couldn’t be happier,” Duggan said. “Con Nooga has showed me so much support, and the attendees’ response has been fantastic. I’m so happy this is my hometown show.”
That doesn’t mean Duggan rules out larger comic shows, which are good for networking, but he thinks smaller shows have a bigger heart.
“I love getting to meet fellow artists who [are] at the top of their game, and those are at bigger cons,” he said. “However, you do miss out on the one on one you get to have with fans, and making lasting connections with people is what the small cons are about for me. It’s the little cons that fuel you to keep going.”
And Duggan’s been keeping busy with locally based projects such asBattle Bin, pluscreating art for Marvel and Upper Deck’s Legendary Deck Building card series.
“Battle Bin was a subscription game service based in Chattanooga who wanted to get into making some of their own games,” he said. “I heard about them and got involved. I had never done anything like making games or doing game art, but I’m always open to try new things. I’ve worked on a few games now and helped fund a Kickstarter for them.”
The Legendary card series for Marvel has Duggan drawing major characters like Spider-man and Hulk alongside other artists.
“I’m … getting paid to draw, and that by itself is a dream come true,” he said.
He’s found creating game art to be very similar to one-off comic covers because it’s all about iconic imagery instead of the intensive technique involved with inking comic panels day in and day out.
“You’re capturing a moment in time and trying to make it the coolest moment you can,” he said. “Comics, on the other hand, is endurance and really tests your finer skills. Sure, anybody can draw a decent Batman, but can you draw that Batman from any angle? Any pose?”
Duggan averages drawing four to five comic pages a week, with other art commissions taking more or less time, depending on the request.
“If it’s game art or commission work, I don’t like for it to take more than a day,” he said. “I color most of my own work outside of comics, so that adds a bit of time. But my goal is to always be fast, put out quality work and be easy to work with.”
And while the 26-year-old artist is drawing for major brands, he’s happy to still be based in the Scenic City.
The joy of art is you do most of it from home. Because of Dropbox and email, you no longer have to live in New York or LA to be near the companies, nor do you have to mail work in and hope it doesn’t get crushed on the way. You can live in beautiful places like Chattanooga and still get to do what you love. Chattanooga is such an inspiring place to live. The way the city has really embraced the art scene has really given it a personality. Nashville is all about the music; now Chattanooga is all about the art.
Rachel Stewart grew up in the ’80s on a healthy diet of pop culture. In 2005, she discovered “Doctor Who” and never looked back. Since then, she co-founded the Tennessee Who Authority-a “Doctor Who” fan group-and has served as a panelist at fan conventions across the Southeast, including Con Nooga, TimeGate, Hurricane Who and ConGT. She also reviews “Doctor Who” novels and “Big Finish” audios at “The Oncoming Storm” podcast. Want to show off your alter ego? Email Rachel at [email protected].