‘Amazing! Comic Con Aloha’ Showcases Hawaii Talent


Miguel Dandan

David Nakayama, at the ‘Amazing! Comic Con Aloha’.

Fans got a chance last weekend to see the artist behind their favorite Marvel comics at this year’s “Amazing! Aloha Comic Con.”

David Nakayama, a Marvel comic book cover artist from Nuuanu was present at the convention selling signed prints of his for work for Marvel.

According to Nakayama, this was his first comic con he was invited to appear at.

“I was delighted [when they asked me],” Nakayama said. “It’s always very flattering when a comic show asks you to come out.”

This year’s comic con took place at the Hawaii Convention Center from Friday to Sunday. Like Nakayama, other Hawaii-based artists were feature at the convention such as Game of Thrones Artist Mog Park, Aspen comics co-creator Peter Steigerwald, and Sam Campos, creator of the Hawaii-inspired comic book superhero “Pineapple Man.”

Children and adults alike dressed up as either their favorite superhero or television show character. Stalls were touting various movie and television show memorabilia as well as photo booths that let adoring fans take pictures with their favorite TV show actor or actress.

One participant, Kody Okuno who was dressed as Batman, has been coming to comic conventions for more than five years.

“It’s just one of those things that [my girlfriend and I] enjoy,” Okuno said. “It’s a hobby and it’s a passion. We all just have fun out here, and just love making new connections and friends.”

A Love for Comics

The 40-year-old Hawaii native has been working professionally as an artist since 2003. However, Nakayama said that he’s been drawing since he was a child.

He had started drawing simple comic strips such as Garfield, then as he moved into high school, he began drawing scenes from the X-Men comic book series.

“By the time I graduated high school, I thought I was pretty hot stuff,” Nakayama said. “But it turns out I didn’t know anything.”

After graduating from Punahou School in 1997, Nakayama felt the need to further enhance his craft by studying at Washington University in St. Louis, where he got his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communication in 2001.

Although he had four years of formal training, Nakayama still felt like an amateur artist.

It was after his stint at Washington University that he decided to join The Kubert School, (formerly known as the Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art) and studied Narrative Art for two years. Nakayama also spent another two years as an intern for American comic book artist Marc Silvestri at Top Cow, his studio in Los Angeles.

From there, Nakayama began his stint in the world of comic books, helping to create interior artwork for titles such as “City of Heroes” and “Witchblade” at the various studios he worked at.

In 2007, however, was when Nakayama had been scouted to do work for a Marvel comic reboot: “Marvel Adventures Hulk.” Nakayama went on to do comic book artwork for other titles, such as “Big Hero 6,” then eventually got side tracked into the video game industry creating mobile video games such as “Harry Potter Hogwarts Academy” and “Marvel Avengers Academy.”

However, his love for comics brought him back to Marvel. According to Nakayama, it was about four years ago that he started missing the comic book scene.

“[Comics] became more and more of what was in my heart, like what I wanted to draw,” Nakayama said. “I started getting much more serious about covers, and less serious about games. What I really wanted to do was the comics, which had been my first love anyway.”

A now full-time freelance artist back in his home state of Hawaii, Nakayama said his work at the video game studios helped him become a better comic book artist.

“I found that if I combined stuff I knew from being a comic book artist with stuff I picked up as a video game artist, I could create a style that nobody else was doing,” Nakayama said. “So my weird hybrid of art is a combination of those influences.”

A Strong Commitment

With two kids and a wife, Nakayama now has a busy schedule dealing with clients from different parts of the art spectrum.

“My days are: I get up, I get the kids to school, and I draw as much as I possibly can,” Nakayama said. “It’s difficult to break away for a vacation, or to go do other stuff.”

His advice to aspiring artists is to keep practicing and have a strong commitment to the craft.

“You have to have that internal sense of ‘is this good enough, is this as good as a professional’,” Nakayama said. “And sometimes, from the inside looking out, it’s hard to tell that.”

He also believes that it is okay to mimic other’s work for the sake of learning.

“There’s no faster way to learn why that amazing artist did what he did than specifically trying to copy him [or her],” Nakayama said. “Go ahead and copy – it’s a good way to learn.”