HASTINGS, Minn. — The name “Tomicon” started as a joke between Tom Nguyen and his artist friends. It combines Nguyen’s name with “comic-con,” a gathering of people who create, consume and love comic books. When Nguyen began planning his Hastings event, he jokingly used “Tomicon” as a placeholder until he found a better name. The name stuck.
Tomicon was a gathering of creators from around Minnesota. Nguyen and other artists showcased their work on comic books but the event featured a variety of tables; everything from collectable toys to fine art to anime illustrators.
Though he is new to Hastings, Nguyen wanted to help bring people to the city and Artspace, as well as highlight the local art community.
“We feel we have such great space and we also felt like it wasn’t utilized to its full potential. So I thought, why not try this event out, put a call out to local artists, really show off their talents here,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen moved to Hastings over a year ago. He was looking for a new place to call home when he found the River Lofts (the building that houses Artspace) on the internet. When he visited the building and city, Nguyen realized that he found his new home.
“I love the area, it’s very scenic. It’s quiet enough to where I don’t get too distracted and if I want that more crowded city life I’m not too far away from the cities. I’m right by the river so the scenery is great, the creative energy is great.”
Being able to focus and get work done is important for Nguyen because he creates for numerous companies and projects. Recently, the illustrator finished work for “Hunters,” a new series on Amazon. He is currently working on private commissions for people in the comic book world and he is preparing for the next season of "Big Brother." This will be the eighth season that Nguyen creates graphics for the show.
Many of the artists at Tomicon were from Minnesota. However, Nguyen also brought in a couple of special guests for the first Tomicon. One was Keith Champagne who lives in Connecticut.
Champagne and Nguyen have been friends for years. They met while working for DC Comics. Like Nguyen, Champagne has worked on a variety of projects and for many of the big comic book companies. One of his current projects is working as an illustrator for the “Stranger Things” comic book.
“When I first got the gig to be a 'Stranger Things' artist, for a good five to seven minutes I was really popular with my kids’ friends; I was the coolest dad in town at that point,” Champagne said with a smile.
During his interview with the Star Gazette, two boys walked up to Champagne’s table and began looking at the "Stranger Things" items that the writer and illustrator was displaying and selling.
One, who would later introduce himself as Aiden, was excited to find that Champagne had worked on the very first "Stranger Things" comic. Aiden and his friend Griffin, like many people of all ages, love the show and the comic book.
Griffin came to the event to meet Champagne when Aiden informed him that the illustrator was in town.
“He called me down and said that the illustrator was down here and I just thought that was super cool,” Griffin said.
“I told him that DC and Marvel were here and he flipped,” Aiden added.
Like Nguyen, Champagne is working on numerous projects.
“I never get bored and I never get any sleep,” Champagne explained.
One of the friends’ current projects is creating a new comic book together, titled “The Switch.” Nguyen is illustrating and Champagne is writing the comic.
The story follows Electricia, a super villain, who decides that she wants more in life than acting as a villain. So, she adopts “The Switch” as her alter ego where she fights crime instead of committing it.
Nguyen stressed that Tomicon was a big success in his opinion. The space was full and it brought in many people from the Hastings community. He hopes that it will be the first of many Tomicons to come.
Champagne was also impressed by Nguyen’s first event in Hastings.
“Tomicon’s been a great experience," Champagne said. "You know, for a first time show, and for a smaller show, Tom’s really done a great job of organizing it and putting it together and bringing in some people to check it out.”
For more information about Nguyen and events where he will show his work, visit tomnguyenstudio.com.