Willie Ito, Stan Sakai Among Special Guests at Comic-Con

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SAN DIEGO — Comic-Con International, which runs from July 24 to 27 at the San Diego Convention Center, brings comics creators, science fiction and fantasy authors, film and television directors, producers, and writers, and creators from all aspects of the popular arts together with their fans for a fun and often candid discussion of various art forms.

This year’s special guests include:

Willie Ito

Willie Ito

• Willie Ito, whose career as an animator/cartoonist spans nearly 60 years. In 1954, he started at Walt Disney Productions on “Lady and the Tramp,” working on the iconic spaghetti kissing scene. He also worked with Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng at Warner Bros. on classic cartoons such as “One Froggy Evening” and “What’s Opera, Doc?” and on the “Beany and Cecil” TV show with Bob Clampett. He next worked at Hanna-Barbera on shows such as “The Flintstones” and “Yogi Bear.” Ito later returned to Disney’s comic strip department and then Disney Consumer Products, mentoring artists as international director of Disney Art. He is currently writing and illustrating a series of children’s picture books via his Yabitoon Books company, including “Hello, Maggie” and “A Boy of Heart Mountain.”

• Jae Lee, a Korean American comic book artist known for his dark and elegant style. In 1990, he became one of the youngest artists ever to work for a major publisher. He is an Eisner Award winner for his work on Marvel’s “The Inhumans.” The art from his collaboration with writer Grant Morrison on “Fantastic Four: 1234” was featured in an exhibition at the Society of Illustrators in New York City. In 2007, Lee was hand-picked by Stephen King for a six-year journey that began with Marvel’s “The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born” and culminated with illustrating the Grant edition of King’s “The Wind Through the Keyhole” novel. Lee has recently completed “Before Watchmen: Ozymandias,” the prequel to the best-selling graphic novel of all time. He is currently the ongoing artist for one of DC’s best-selling titles, “Batman/Superman.”

Stan Sakai

Stan Sakai

• Jim Lee, a renowned comic book artist and the co-publisher of DC Entertainment. Prior to his current post, Lee served as editorial director, where he oversaw WildStorm Studios and was also the artist for many of DC Comics’ best-selling comics and graphic novels, including “All-Star Batman and Robin,” “The Boy Wonder,” “Batman: Hush,” “Justice League,” and “Superman: For Tomorrow.” He also serves as the executive creative director for the DC Universe Online (DCUO) massively multiplayer action game from Sony Online Entertainment (SOE). Currently, Lee is handling the art chores on the “Superman Unchained” comic book series.

• Stan Sakai, who was born in Kyoto, grew up in Hawaii, and now lives in Southern California. His creation, “Usagi Yojimbo,” the samurai rabbit, was first published in 1984 and continues today. He does extensive research for his stories and has received numerous recognitions, including multiple Eisner Awards, a National Cartoonists Society Award, and the American Library Association Award. In 2013, he illustrated “The 47 Ronin” for Dark Horse. He is currently working on “Usagi Yojimbo: Senso,” a six-issue miniseries in which Martians attack feudal Japan. Sakai also did the cover art for the 2014 Comic-Con Events Guide.

Gene Luen Yang

Gene Luen Yang

• Gene Luen Yang, who began drawing comic books in the fifth grade and was an established figure in the indie comics scene when he published his first book with First Second, “American Born Chinese,” which is now in print in over ten languages. The book’s critical and commercial success, along with its status as a National Book Award finalist and winner of the Printz Award, catapulted Yang into stardom as a major voice of our times. His New York Times best-selling graphic novel diptych “Boxers & Saints” was also a finalist for the National Book Award, making Yang the first-ever graphic novel author to be twice a finalist for this award. His upcoming book, “The Shadow Hero” (with Sonny Liew), debuts at Comic-Con 2014.

• Mike Okuda, lead graphic designer and tech consultant for “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and Greg Jein, model maker for “Star Trek: TNG” and “Star Trek: DS9,” will be part of a team of Star Trek designers showcasing the art and inspiration of the franchise’s most famous Ships of the Line. Panelists include John Eaves (concept artist and senior illustrator, “Star Trek: DS9,” “Star Trek: Enterprise”), Andy Probert (production illustrator, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and consulting illustrator, “Star Trek: TNG”), Doug Drexler (makeup artist, scenic artist, graphic designer, illustrator, and visual effects artist, “Star Trek: TNG,” “Star Trek: DS9”), and ILM’s John Goodson (model maker and digital artist, “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,” “Star Trek: Generations,” “Star Trek Into Darkness”). Q&A moderated by Ben Robinson, editor of the long-running “Star Trek Fact Files” and manager of Eaglemoss’ new Starship Collection. Limited-edition collectibles from Eaglemoss will be distributed to every attendee. (Thursday, July 24, 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. in Room 4)

For more information, visit www.comic-con.org.

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