May 20, 2010

Comics festival is NOT a convention – it's about art

By Stephanie Bouchard sbouchard@mainetoday.com
News Assistant

Move over Superman. Hello Mr. Darcy.

click image to enlarge

Jeff Lamire, writer/artist of "Sweet Tooth," shown here, is among the featured guests at the Maine Comic Arts Festival.

Those who haven't been following the world of comics and graphic novels may be stunned to learn that graphic novels are not just stories about guys in capes and tights.

Not only can you read Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" or Dante's "The Inferno" in graphic novel format, you can also read graphic novels written by or adapted from the work of best selling authors, like Stephenie Myers ("Twilight" series), James Patterson (Alex Cross series), Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum series) and Dave Pilkey ("The Adventures of Captain Underpants" series).

"Pick any genre and there's a graphic novel to go with it," says John Shableski, a sales manager for Diamond Book Distributors, one of this country's largest distributors of graphic novels and one of the presenters during the Maine Comics Arts Festival to be held Saturday and Sunday in Portland.

Historical fiction, romance, mysteries, fantasy, science, religion, children's literature and even materials like the 9/11 Commission Report are all genres that populate today's graphic novel industry. Many of those genres will be represented at the Maine Comics Arts Festival, with more than 100 comic writers, artists and others exhibiting at Ocean Gateway on Sunday.

The comics festival was started last year by Rick Lowell and Laura O'Meara of Casablanca Comics of Portland and Windham. Unlike traditional comic books festivals, the Maine Comics Arts Festival isn't your standard comic book convention with hundreds of vendors selling comics books.

The festival is focused on the art of comics. That means festival attendees will be able to interact with the people who create comics and graphic novels. Some of this year's featured guests include Jeff Lemire, writer and artist of "Sweet Tooth," and Skottie Young, artist for "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."

"Part of the whole focus of the festival is to raise awareness of what comics are," said Lowell.

Raising awareness means not only providing access to the artists themselves but also providing educational opportunities for people to learn more about comics and graphic novels. To that end, the comics festival has joined forces with the folks at the Portland Public Library to expand from one day to two. Workshops and presentations have been moved to a separate day, Saturday, and will take place at the library's main branch on Congress Street. All of Saturday's events are free and open to the public.

In addition to Shableski's "The World of Graphic Novels" presentation explaining how educators and librarians can use graphic novels to get kids interested in reading, Saturday's offerings include a cartooning workshop for kids with local artist Jay Piscopo, author and illustrator of "The Undersea Adventures of Capt'n Eli" series, a comics reading/performance and a panel discussion with comics creators.

 

Staff Writer Stephanie Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:

sbouchard@pressherald.com

 

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