SDCC 2016 highlights August 8, 2016 12:42

From Jess: 

"It's the most won-der-ful tiiiiime of the year!" If you visited our booth at San Diego Comic-Con, you might be surprised to find me singing Christmas carols in July, but this convention really does mark the most wonderful time of the year for us.

SDCC is an equal parts exhausting and exhilarating four and a half days spent in our 10'x10' booth on the San Diego Convention Center's exhibit floor, debuting new products and spending time with some of the most creative people on the planet. It was at SDCC last year that we introduced the world to "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist," and some of the most thrilling moments of SDCC 2016 involved people who bought the book twelve months ago dropping by to say hello and show their appreciation for our lifeguard mermaids. We thought we'd share a few of those with you!

The first of those people is Becki Santana, who swung by on Preview Night to show us her beautiful Kelby Cortez cosplay. Becki dressed as Kelby in her human form, rocking her lifeguard gear and even her spot-on perfect reading glasses. Wow! We love talking to Becki, who's smart and funny and so kind, and she brought Kelby to life in a very real way. She posted two sets of gorgeous in-character photos on her Tumblr that you can take a look at here and here. Naturally, we also asked to take some pictures with her!

The next day, Chris and I arrived at our booth to find a fin-tastic surprise waiting for us: Sabrina Stein of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, wearing a totally handcrafted Nim costume! Sabrina's cosplays are always a pleasure to see and show an immense attention to detail, but this one takes the cake for sheer ingenuity.

Mermaid costumes present a major challenge when it comes to mobility, but Sabrina solved the tail issue brilliantly by painting a hoop skirt to resemble a rock and then building Nim's tail around her waist (including the dorsal fin on the back!) and down the front of the "rock." When she wanted to walk, Sabrina could simply pick up her foam tail and stroll off. The illusion was so convincing! Even knowing how the costume is constructed, it still looks like Sabrina-as-Nim is seated comfortably in the middle of aisle 4600. We loved it! Her hard work warmed our hearts.

Speaking of hard work, Joanne Garcia of Fierce Fantasy Designs delighted us with a sweet and generous handmade gift: a necklace featuring the tiniest Nim sculpture inside a bottle! Joanne makes and sells bottle necklaces like this in her Etsy store, and we were so touched that she took the time to make one for us! The ability to work in such small scale, and inside a bottle, is incredibly impressive; I may take a video of it later, since photos just don't do it justice. It's so cool that I can carry a miniature Nim around with me wherever I go!

One of the best things about SDCC is getting to reconnect with friends and people whose work we admire, and Chris and I were excited to see Robert Short again after meeting him for the first time at SDCC 2015. Robert's an Academy Award-winning makeup and special effects artist whose work you've seen in "Beetlejuice," "E.T.," and -- if you're a fan of mermaids, which you probably are if you're reading this! -- "Splash," and he's always such a pleasure to talk to. He's full of great stories, and his work on Daryl Hannah's mermaid tail in "Splash" continues to inspire after three decades! You can check out Robert's work at his website,, which has a bunch of cool photos and videos from all the projects he's been a part of in the past forty years.

There are marvelously creative people wherever you look at SDCC, and we asked three of them if they would draw our Rescue Sirens for our original artwork collection: artist and designer Morghan Gill (upper left), who painted Nim in gouache and iridescent paint; visual development artist, children's book illustrator, and animator Bill Robinson (lower left), our awesome neighbor from across the aisle, who drew Kelby; and comics artist Terry Dodson (right), who also drew Kelby, using Copic markers and Pitt pens.

Let's take a closer look, shall we?

First up: Morghan Gill's gouache painting of Nim. This is something else that I should record as a video! Morghan included iridescent accents in this piece -- golden highlights in Nim's hair, glittery blue scales, and even a silvery sheen on the jellyfish -- that add such a life and sparkle when they catch the light. We're crazy about Morghan's use of shapes and color in her work, and Chris and I were thrilled to score one of her original paintings. Nim and her jellyfish companions look mer-mazing!

Morghan offers sketchbooks, stickers, original paintings like these, and even a soft little plush shark named Pango (you know how much we love sharks, so we bought one of our own!) in her Etsy store; you can also follow her artwork via her Instagram.

Next: Bill Robinson's Kelby sketch! Bill's Flimflammery booth was across the aisle and to the left of ours, so Chris and I sat behind our table and chatted to one another about how appealing Bill's artwork was and how he had such a cute, fun style -- and then Chris suggested that I go over and ask if we might commission a drawing from him. Now, why didn't I think of that? I walked across the aisle and asked Bill if he would draw one of our Rescue Sirens; he very kindly agreed, and, in no time at all, he'd given us a gorgeous underwater scene showing our tiger shark mermaid and some fishy friends. What a beauty!

Bill sells books and prints in his Etsy shop, although it is, as of this writing, closed for vacation because Bill is currently in Iceland with Light Grey Art Lab, teaching character design to other artists in one of the most picturesque places in the world. Stay up to date and see more on his Instagram!

And that leads us to Terry Dodson's Copic-and-Pitt sketch of Kelby! We've followed Terry's art for years; if you read comic books, you've doubtlessly seen his distinctive and immediately recognizable work, since he's worked on a ton of titles and properties in the past two-plus decades ("Spider-Man," "The Avengers," "The X-Men," "Wonder Woman," "Superman," "Harley Quinn," "Poison Ivy," and "Star Wars" are just a few). I'm so fond of the way Terry draws women: more realistic than most women in comics, but no less beautiful or appealing. The word that comes to mind when I think of Terry's style is "striking." I always have to stop and take a better look when I spot one of Terry's covers in a comic shop. He's just so original!

Although I'll happily talk your ear off about mermaids or sharks or ocean conservation, I'm super shy when it comes to everything else, and I carry a dread fear of coming off like a total dork in front of people who I look up to... like Terry. However, I very badly wanted to see what one of our Rescue Sirens would look like in his style, so I gathered up my courage and ran over to his booth to ask if he was still taking commissions at SDCC, and, if so, whether he would mind drawing the Rescue Siren of his choice. Terry and his wife -- a great talent in her own right, Rachel Dodson inks Terry's drawings! -- were both incredibly nice and easy to talk to, and I was ecstatic when Terry said that he'd sketch one of our girls.

He chose to draw Kelby, who's had her peaceful swim interrupted by a rather shocking greeting from a jellyfish -- the setting as well as the sense of action and story instantly identifies Terry as a skilled comics artist and leaves me wanting to see what happens next. Chris and I are really honored to add an original Terry Dodson drawing to our art collection, and we look forward to the next opportunity we have to talk to both him and Rachel.

Want to see more of Terry's work? Like Morghan and Bill above, you can follow Terry on his Instagram account, and you can even purchase some of his original comic book pages in his online store.

You can also view larger versions of these (and other illustrations) in our "Guest Artists" gallery, which features "Rescue Sirens" artwork that we've commissioned -- like the above images -- as well as a handful of our favorite fan art pieces. It's just such a kick to see our lifeguard mermaids depicted in other artists' styles!

With San Diego Comic-Con 2016 in the bag, Chris and I are already making plans for SDCC 2017. We want to thank each and every one of you who came by to say hi and talk to us about "Rescue Sirens"; SDCC is a lot of work, but you make it all worth it!

For those of you who can't make it to SDCC (whether due to geography or to the fact that SDCC badges sell out in about seventeen seconds), we have some good news: schedules depending, Chris and I are looking to exhibit at more conventions next year, so you may see us pop up at shows like WonderCon in Anaheim or maybe even an East Coast con! As soon as we know more, we'll let you guys know here on the "Rescue Sirens" website as well as our usual social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr.