Art fans flock to comic Web site

Art fans flock to comic Web site

June 27th, 2010 by Casey Phillips in Trends 2010

Staff photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press Chris Haggard flips through his personal collection of original comic artwork while at his home. Haggard is a co-founder of of Comicartfans.com which is an online storehouse of comic collections connecting collectors and dealers.

Trendsetting Web entrepreneurs

Jonathan Mulkey, 32

Occupation: Digital communications and graphic designer.

Claim to fame: Mr. Mulkey uses a multimedia approach to marketing, spanning online and offline media. In the last three years, his work has won numerous accolades, including four awards at the Diagnostic Marketing Association Creative Communications Awards in Chicago.

Quote: "I've been involved in the web ever since I graduated from college. It's constantly evolving, so it's a challenge, but I enjoy it. I'm one of these guys who was an early adopter, so I've grown up with it and I feel like I have a good grasp of how to use the tools that are out there."

Karen Culp, 31

Occupation: Creative director at Smart Furniture and co-lead on Chattanooga 3-D.

Claim to fame: Along with her husband, Stephen, Mrs. Culp has been bringing dimension to Chattanooga's online representation through Chattanooga 3D, a 3D mapping/marketing effort that's set to represent every building in the city on Google Earth.

Quote:/ "The Internet is absolutely necessary. It allows us to be connected to a broader market and to reach the community more extensively. It also allows the public to see what we're doing, learn how to get involved and what projects are currently in the works. It is a collaboration and networking tool. Also, since Google Earth is a web-based program, we are able to see the results of our efforts, on demand."

Kris Simmons, 32

Occupation: Web video producer and founder of 6 Strong Media a video agency working in web-based and traditional media.

Claim to Fame: In his 15 years working as a video producer, Mr. Simmons has won numerous awards for his work, including four International Videographer Awards, two Tellys and the distinction of being named by the Small Business Administration as Tennessee's Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2004.

Quote:"I've used the web pretty effectively to reach out and attract clients outside of the Chattanooga market. ... The web has really helped me with regeneration and project management. Without the Internet, that wouldn't be possible."

Five million is an awfully big number. If converted into footsteps, it would cover enough distance to walk the entire 2,175 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

It also happens to be the number of monthly page views of Chris Haggard's Web site, Comic Art Fans (www.comicartfans.com), an online storehouse and meta-gallery for comic-book artwork.

Mr. Haggard, 38, co-founded the site in 2003 with his Ohio-based partner, Bill Cox. He said the two of them saw a need to create a central location to replace the system collectors, dealers and auctioning houses had been using, which was conducted across dozens of sites and through e-mailed transactions.

Since its inception, the site has added 47,000 registered users worldwide. There are more than 400,000 pieces of comic book artwork on display in about 5,700 active galleries, with seven gigabytes of additional artwork added every month, Mr. Haggard said.

"We do a lot of traffic, but it's been a steady incline since we started," he said. "It's taken a while, and we've put a lot of work into it, optimizing it so we come up first in search engines and doing PR at conventions and with dealers."

Mr. Haggard is a a web developer by trade, and he oversees design and maintenance of the site from his home in Ringgold, Ga. Both Mr. Haggard and his partner have day jobs, but he said that he makes an additional $20,000-$30,000 annually through Comic Art Fans.

Mr. Haggard said he and Mr. Cox are working to expand the site into the burgeoning mobile market.

"As we go along, more and more people are using it, so we're going to do a stripped-down version so you can still search dealers while you're out," he said. "We're always brainstorming to try to figure out ways to bring more stuff to market."