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Richard Contreras' Comic Book Portraits at Gotham City Comics and Coffee

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Last week, a few days after Gotham City Comics and Coffee opened in downtown Mesa, Richard Contreras began working on a portrait of the Incredible Hulk; it was Contreras' fifth piece of superhero-themed art painted for the shop.

Not long afterward, he took it down.

"I put it up there, and I didn't like it at all," says Contreras, a self-described perfectionist.

It's his first art showing in a public space, and his first stab at comic-book-related art, so maybe some self-consciousness is understandable.

Then again, as a life-long artist and superhero fan, he's had some time to prepare.

Check out some of Contreras' art at Gotham City Comics and Coffee after the jump...

Contreras' paints and draws regularly (but mostly just "stuff that ends up hanging in my room," he says), and has a passion for graffiti art.

So when Josh Krize, an old friend of Contreras, opened Gotham City, Krize enlisted him to paint superhero-themed portraits for the shop.

"This is like his studio now," Krize says.

Although the shop is already getting full with four of Contreras' pieces up (including one of Mr. Freeze, which he might take down as well in favor of a less animated, Schwarzenegger-based portrait), Krize hopes when they run out of space on the walls, they'll move to the ceiling to display more of Contreras' work.

The shop also features a portrait of Daredevil done by another local artist, Sam Aguirre.

Eventually, Krize and co-owner Mike Laurendeau hope to turn the store into a comic book shop/local art gallery/coffee shop, with local artists who normally wouldn't dabble in comic book art bringing their own style to superhero portraits.

As for Contreras, he says he'll continue working in a comic-book-style, maybe illustrating one of his own someday. But even if he doesn't draw them, he'll keep reading them.

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