Sunday, January 29, 2017

LumaCon 3, Supervillains 0

The joke in that title never gets old. To me.

Local librarians threw the third annual LumaCon in the city of Petaluma, Calif. last Saturday. If LumaCon had a mission statement, it'd include bringing students interested in writing, art, and comics together with amateur and professional practitioners to talk shop. It's small (attendance about 2500), free, low-key, down-home, and about as charming as could be. I even sold a few books. It's my absolute favorite comics convention.

The people who organize LumaCon do it for the love of kids and comics. They treat their guests better than any convention I know of, providing a gift basket, a lounge generously stocked with snacks, and trusted sitters who are happy to watch your table while you meander or take a break. That last is a practical, generous service that other cons could emulate.

I love talking with kids who want to make comics. This year I noticed more shy ones than in the past. They'd come up to the table, silent and staring, with a parent who talked about how much their son or daughter loved to draw pictures and make up stories. A nice way to open them up a bit was to show some of my original drawings and then show them how those drawings look as published in one of my books. I remember being young and not knowing, for example, that most comic art is drawn larger than it appears in print. I tried to demystify the process a bit. Making comics is work, but it's not magic. A few kids really seemed to get that. Some maybe went home excited to try it themselves.

As I understand it, that's one of the points of LumaCon, which distinguishes it from all other cons I've attended.

My daughters came and hung out with me for most of the day, but I'm forbidden to post photographic proof. However, I did try to get around and take some pictures.

LumaCon is held in a local community center. This is how you know you've found the right place.

High school librarian Nathan Libecap, one of the head organizers, infused with as much energy and passion as if he'd been bitten by a radioactive spider. I don't get a lot of opportunities to wear that shirt.

I was seated next to my friend Jason Whiton, who hosts SpyVibe and has a terrific interest in, and knowledge of, mid-century mod/pop culture: The Prisoner, The Man from UNCLE, Dr. Who, cartoonist Mort Walker, and more. He's also a teacher. We talked all day. The Robot is a papercraft doll I engineered for my "Last Mechanical Monster" webcomic, intended as a sort of thank you prize for readers who made it to the end. I handed out little cards with a URL to the plans for anyone who wanted to try building it themselves. Give it a shot if you want

Two angles on the main Artists' Room, above and below, taken from a stage. Cartoonists Lex Fajardo and Paige Braddock are in the foreground of the photo above.

Turned around to get a picture of the Arts & Crafts action on that stage. Good creative energy. All day I saw kids running around with cardboard Captain America-style shields they'd made.
Vendors and booksellers crowded the entrance lobby.

The bake sale. How can you not love a convention that has a bake sale?

One of the highlights of my day was sitting across from, and getting to talk with, Izzy Ehnes. She does single-panel cartoons with a smart and dark POV. Fair or not, the best comparable I can think of is "The Far Side." Two years ago Izzy attended the first LumaCon, where her work was spotted by cartoonists Stephan Pastis and Nick Galifianakis. Stephan recommended her to Universal-UClick editor John Glynn, which is how her comic The Best Medicine ended up with a worldwide audience on See? It's just that easy.

I checked in with another talented young woman, my friend Erin, who cartoons under the name Sam Coaass. Erin and her mother showed up at every local comics-related event since she was in middle school, and now she's in community college as determined as ever.  No one can predict success but she has all the tools to achieve it.

Paige Braddock and Art Roche from the Schulz Studio. Paige does a children's series called "Stinky Cecil" as well as decidedly non-children's work like "Jane's World" and "The Martian Confederacy." Art has a new book coming out soon titled "The Knights of Boo'Gar"; I've seen early drafts and think it could do well with fifth graders who like puns about boogers. Which is all of them.

Lex Fajardo had kids and parents surrounding his "Kid Beowulf" booth all day. Long self-published, Kid B. is now being put out by publisher Andrews-McMeel, which has the potential to reach a much larger audience than Lex could on his own. Lex is very thoughtful about comics and works hard. I hope he's got a hit on his hands.

Said hello to Terrific Tom Beland (now I feel like Stan Lee handing out nicknames to the Marvel Bullpen in 1965). Tom has freelanced for Marvel Comics, Image and IDW, did a great book titled "True Story Swear to God," and recently published "Chicacabra." He's got a smooth, elegant, clean inking style I really admire. Beautiful artwork and perceptive writing.

Jason Whiton took this picture of me doing what I described at the start, showing a girl and her father my original drawings and explaining how they got turned into a book. A really sweet kid. That's librarian Nathan Libecap behind. The con staff did a smart thing in that they all wore orange capes, so if you had a problem or needed someone to watch your table for a few minutes, you could just grab an orange cape for help. 
LumaCon had some of the usual costume ("cosplay") fol-de-rol, most of it charmingly homespun.
These Star Wars guys were semi-pros who looked very sharp . . .

. . . but my favorite of the day was the cardboard starship Enterprise. Terrific.

A few "civilian" pals dropped by as well, including my friends Marion and Susan, and three great people I worked with long ago who conspired to gang up and surprise me. They succeeded! Jeran, Kim and Honora all remember when my daughters were born, so it was really special for me to reintroduce them all grown up.

Another nice moment: I was a short distance from my table talking to Tom Beland when I looked over and saw one of my girls urgently waving me back. I hustled over and found them talking with a distinguished older woman with two boys in tow. Turns out she was a very good friend of my mother's 40 years ago who had brought her grandsons to LumaCon, just happened to notice my name on the table, and had been quizzing my daughters with way more information about my family than anyone should rightly have. I remembered her and her husband very well--she was actually one of a few adults who respected my interest in comics when I was a teen--and we had a good time catching up. Another wonderful surprise.

All in all, LumaCon is about as sincere as Linus's pumpkin patch and as easy to love. This seems like an especially good time to promote creativity and literacy. I'll keep going as long as they'll have me.


Robin said...

It's one of our favorite cons too, just because the people attending actually seem to /care/ about not just comics but also the people who make them. Especially the staff who are nicer than any I've ever seen at a con. :)

Nathan Libecap said...

Another incredibly kind write up! Thank you for believing in LumaCon! from the beginning. It's this exactly that fuels our tank for the next one. We're on for a panel too, guaranteed. Oh, and you usually post this one, so I'll leave it here because it's a joke that never gets old. To me.

Tom Beland said...

Thanks for the kind words! The kid in the Enterprise costume blew me away. It as also cool to talk about comics with the kids and see their excitement. I missed out on the bake sale!!!! Chocolate chip cookies are my jammmmmm. _tom