Even when you love comics, it’s often hard to not feel discouraged. The focus is so firmly on Marvel and DC that when anything else gets attention, it feels like an afterthought. So much of the discussion seems to be based around anger and negativity, that even I have to remind myself why I love and want to celebrate comics.
But I also know I’m bringing my adult baggage into this — that comics are somehow separate and special from everything else and that I need to defend them to the world. When I’ve gone to events like Kazu Kibuishi at the National Book Festival or Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman at One More Page Books, the children in attendance don’t see comics as something that’s “other” — they just see them as things they love.
That’s why at Kids Read Comics Celebration, it was impossible for me to not feel hopeful. This event breathed passion and love. It was full of people — creators, parents, children, bloggers, friends — who were there to be excited about comics and to share their excitement.
Kids Read Comics! took over a couple of floors of the Ann Arbor District Library, which was a great, family-friendly space for it. It provided a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere — more like hanging out with friends than being at a con. (The fact that it was inside was also a welcome relief from Saturday’s 100+ degree heat, but at least it was cooler on Sunday.)
And maybe because of that, while the artist alley was often quite busy (it was easy for the space to fill up) I did hear from a few that they weren’t selling too many things. Still, making money didn’t so much seem like the motivation in participating. Rather, here were creators of a diversity of ages and backgrounds just desiring to share their work with kids and their families. If they sold a few books, that was probably a bonus more than anything.
Truly, though, the focus of Kids Read Comics! was on the programming, which was extensive and almost all interactive. There were only a few straightforward panels listed. Instead, most were short classes, workshops or events attendees could participate in. I attended Saturday morning’s Comics Quickfire with my family, which took suggestions from the audience to make a 1-page, 4-panel comic. It was fast, silly fun but also showed how easy it is to make a comic, no matter how ridiculous. Host Dave Roman was a delight and knew how to engage the audience. My (older, I must point out) brother offered two suggestions — that the foot belonged to Shaq (you can kind of see that in the photo — and look, it made sense) and then a “puppy wearing sunglasses” as one of the 10 things the artist needed to draw in the final round.
I also attended Raina Telgemeier’s Turn Your Life into a Comic! workshop. While it was mostly aimed at children (the aim was to make a comic based on the grossest thing that happened to you, and if that doesn’t appeal to kids, I don’t know what does), the way she broke it down was insightful and beneficial even to me. I think too often just knowing where to start is the challenge and she made it easy.
I then went to the live Comics Are Great! talkshow/podcast taping. I enjoyed that Jerzy Drozd figured out who I was based on a few details (mostly that I mentioned Big Planet Comics — Drozd and I do follow each other on Twitter but we hadn’t met until then). I think he thought I was kidding when I said Comics Are Great! is one of the two podcasts I listen to, but it is! I always love listening to it and I always learn something.
It was a fun, casual discussion and definitely what I expected from it — I think Comics Are Great! is always smart and enlightening and I liked the way the discussion grew organically. It was approaching the end of the day, though, and I think everyone was getting tired (Roman tried to get me to go to mic to ask a question and I said I wasn’t going to be able to think of anything). Still, it could’ve continued on much longer than it did and it only ended because there was another event following it.
I didn’t get to go back on Sunday (when the weather was actually nice!), but I’m happy I got to see the people I got to see (especially Roman and Telgemeier, since they won’t be at Small Press Expo this year).
When I got back to my brother’s, I read Sally Carson‘s “Skids” mini and I realized what I loved about comics — it makes me feel like I have friends everywhere, even if it’s just through the connection we have through something that’s printed on a page or posted online. It made me remember that none of that other negative stuff matters. That’s the power of comics — the sense of community and the unabashed joy of creation. I loved seeing people of all ages being excited by this and wanting to share it and be apart of it.
Saturday was my birthday and I can’t think of a better way to have spent it.