One of the things I realized very quickly after moving to Los Angeles was just how many brilliant cartoonists, illustrators and designers there were in the comic book scene whose work could possibly never be seen in the pages of an actual comic book. This is because those artists work in animation, and while many L.A. area comics shops are covered from floor to ceiling in prints, pin-ups and sketchbooks created by these gifted individuals, the grueling demands of the feature and television animation industries make producing a deadline-driven comic book a virtual impossibility. But make no mistake, most of these people love comic books.

One such talent is Ben Balistreri, a character designer at DreamWorks Animation who's decided to express his fondness for the Marvel Comics superheroes in an excellent series of portraits, one for each of his 50 favorite characters from the House of Ideas. Balistreri is an Emmy winner for his character design work on Craig McCracken's Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends for Cartoon Network. You've also seen his work in a plethora of Disney projects and in DreamWorks' popular How to Train Your Dragon, not to mention our previous coverage of his awesome Star Wars portraits. And unlike some of the animation professions I referenced earlier, Balistreri has somehow found the time to produce his own comic book: Seaweed - A Cure for Mildew, a 64-page hardcover graphic novel that you can preview and purchase right here.

With respect to the Marvel portraits, Balistreri wrote on his blog that he'd been a dedicated fan of the publisher when he was a child, and that he had an association with late, great Marvel Editor-in-Chief Mark Guenwald.

Growing up I always dreamed of being a Marvel Comics artist. Mark Gruenwald, (one time editor in chief of Marvel) was a student of my Dad's at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh and that gave me extra inspiration that I could make it there one day. Eventually my interests steered towards animation, but I still would like to illustrate a comic for Marvel one day if I got the opportunity.

Balistreri has completed 25 of the planned 50 Marvel portraits, which demonstrate a strong "animation" style that's also invokes a cool 1980s vibe (the vintage cover corner treatment definitely helps). When he completes the set, Balistreri will auction the originals off and donate the proceeds to Multiple sclerosis research. You can check out all 25 Marvel portraits and loads of additional art at Balistreri's blog.