07/03/2015 10:46 EDT | Updated 07/03/2016 05:59 EDT

Montreal Comiccon attracts comic-book artists, fans

Montreal Comiccon opens Friday and thousands of comics fans, many in their favourite superhero costumes, will converge on Palais des congrès over the weekend.

The fans go to see their favourite writers, actors and artists; the writers and artists go to meet fans, hang out with friends and make contacts in the industry.

The comic scene has grown exponentially over the past decade with sales, reaching $935 million in North America in 2014.

Comics written in Montreal  

Some of those sales are for comics written right here in Montreal.

More and more comics artists like Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger are moving to Montreal, attracted by low rents and the swelling artistic community.

Cloonan is originally from New York City and Belanger if from Waterloo, Ont.

Belanger says his career took off after he chose to leave his hometown for Montreal.

"The overhead was a lot lower at the time and there's an amazing sense of community here, too — not just in the comic scene. I meet all kinds of different people I wouldn't meet in Toronto because it's too big. You know creative directors at Ubisoft or restaurant owners who are into comics. So you start building this really cool little world for yourself that is really creative, and it's not just comic book creators only," Belanger says.

The two artists are collaborating on a new series, Southern Cross, published by Image Comics.

"It's kind of like Agatha Christie in space. It's about this woman named Alex Braith and she's on a flight to Saturn's moon Titan to collect her sister's body," Cloonan says.

Belanger was inspired for the illustrations by 1980s analog technology and haute-couture fashion. The heroine's signature look includes a toque.

"Becky just slapped it on a cover and I said, 'Oh I guess the character is wearing a toque now, so I have to draw this toque every panel,'" he says.

Going pro

The first issue of Southern Cross sold 30,000 copies. The duo say they're making a good living in the industry, though they joke they're not millionaires. 

"We're thousandaires," laughs Cloonan. "It's like anything in the arts — you have to work really hard. But yes, we're making a good living."

Enough cash to follow their passions, says Belanger. 

"I used to work for Toronto Hydro, but I had enough clients at 27 to go professional," he says.

Cloonan and Belanger will be showing off Southern Cross this weekend at the Montreal Comiccon. It opens Friday with a conversation with Kevin Smith. Other special events include "An Evening with Doctor Who Companions" and two performances of music from the Final Fantasy video game.