By JOEY GOMEZ

Whether it’s mingling with celebrities or discovering the latest technology available for local artists and students, you can count on Edinburg cartoonist and teacher Ramon Ramirez to represent the region at some of the most premier venues in the world.

Ramirez was among the thousands of professionals and enthusiasts who attended the 41st annual Comic-Con in San Diego last month; one of the largest in the western hemisphere, and one of the premier events showcasing comics, film and pop culture.

The event was a chance to meet and greet pioneers in various industries, including film and animation, as well as independent artists from around the world, Ramirez said.

“Networking at the conference is important because you just never know who you’re dealing with. For example, just on the bus to the conference I met someone who does music for video games. How cool is that,” said Ramirez, who famously was sponsored by the Wayans Brothers at the same convention in 2007 for his Teacher Toons, cartoon series.

“It’s important because a lot of people see this conference as nerds and geeks together, but these are the nerds and geeks that have a job, have a goal, and have great products that we use daily that we don’t really see,” Ramirez said.

This year was Ramirez’s sixth visit to the annual convention. At the event, Ramirez was able to meet actors Chevy Chase, L.L. Cool J, and had the opportunity to take part in a special appearance by Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the three original Star Wars films.

Ramirez also came back with several endorsements for products used by the professionals in the industry. Ramirez is now sponsored by Wacom, a company that produces digital tablets used by artists in the industry.

Imaginism Studios, a company that most recently provided character work for Alice in Wonderland and the upcoming Smurfs movie, also contributed educational resources to his classroom.

Ramirez also received contributions from Animation Magazine, which contributed school resources, and calendars for the art staff at Edinburg High School.

“I’m trying to be the bridge between the professional world, and the educational world. I’m trying to be the one who shows the school what professionals are using. The neat part about it is, now I get it for free. It all started by me trying to get a discount on the product, and they ended up being impressed by the work I’ve done.

Ramirez has been teaching for nearly 20 years. After college, the demands of life led him to education where he combined a potential career with that which he longed to do, which was teaching art in Corpus Christi and then the Rio Grande Valley.

Currently, his “Only In the Valley” cartoon series has spread like wildfire across various social network sites like Facebook, where he has amassed close to the 30,000 fans.

Ramirez includes comic strips like Herman, The Far Side, and artists like Ralph Snart as some of his influences. He also says Mighty Mouse, Underdog, and Superman are some of his favorite cartoons dating back to his childhood.

“It was just this whole other world you could jump into,” Ramirez says about cartoons. “Before video games, we actually used our imaginations, which were a lot cheaper.”