My favorite event on the comics convention calendar did not disappoint! LumaCon 2023, the best free little con I know, put on by librarians in Petaluma, Calif., was a hoot. I'll dump some photos below, but short version: I had a good time with old friends, made a couple of new ones, talked to some very talented and driven kids about comics, and surprisingly sold more books than I think I have at any other con.
Seriously. I was telling Andrew Farago, curator of the Cartoon Art Museum, how surprised I was to see my books selling out, and he pointed out that people attend an event like, say, Comic-Con International in San Diego for a lot of reasons: movies, TV shows, video games, cosplay, the grand spectacle of it all. Whereas people go to a convention run by librarians largely because they like to read. I don't do well with a crowd that's there for Wolverine, but with people looking for something kind of interesting and different, I can do all right.
|My spread. I had a couple of very creative and entrepreneurial kids sitting beside me and "Kid Beowulf" creator Lex Fajardo behind me. Surrounded by talent.|
In addition to Andrew and his wife, cartoonist Shaenon Garrity, and their son Robin, other friends with tables included cartoonist Tom Beland, cartoonist/illustrator Emily C. Martin, and cartoonist Lex Fajardo, who sat right behind me. Everybody told me I had to meet Gio Benedetti, a cartoonist who also does workshops and puts together anthologies of teens' comics, so I did and he was great. Nathan Libecap, librarian at Casa Grande High School, and his team of colleagues and volunteers made all the pros feel very welcome and ran a smooth show. Other friends dropped by, including writer/teacher Jason Whiton, cartoonist Denis St. John, librarian/gallery wrangler Loretta Esparza, and friends Kathy Bottarini and Kristin Hendricks. Best of all, my daughters Laura and Robin helped staff my table for a couple of hours, which was wonderful because they're much better salespeople than I am.
Plus LumaCon still has its bake sale. If your comics convention doesn't have a bake sale, you're doing it wrong.
|The Bake Sale. Oh yeah.|
In some press promoting LumaCon, Nathan had made the point that its focus is on young creators and the pros are pretty much invited as bait to lure people in (he put it nicer than that). I teased him a bit about that, and he reassured me that I would always be welcome but also told me something very interesting: since the first LumaCon in 2015, some of the artists who started out on the amateur kids' side of the room have begun to migrate over to the professional adult side. As they aged, at least a few of them kept their passion, grew their skills, and are now getting real pay and recognition for their creative work!
Holy Moley! How wonderful is that? I can only imagine how gratifying it must be for the LumaCon organizers to see the seeds they planted with their first mini-convention years ago begin to bloom like that. Nathan also confirmed that LumaCon has become a model that other cities, libraries and schools are looking to emulate, which I can confirm because I've been invited to one of them later this year.
|Nathan was easy to find because he was everywhere all at once.|
Most years I can count on having an "Only at LumaCon" moment, and this is this year's:
One of the tables was selling work from Alchemia, a local program to "nuture the creative expression of individual with disabilities as a vehicle for personal growth and accomplishment," says their website. One of their artists, Justin, came by my table with his staff supporter Andy, and was absorbed by a couple pages of original artwork I'd brought because I like to talk to young artists about the process of turning drawings on paper into pages in a book. These particular pages were the two-page spread of skyscrapers on the title page of The Last Mechanical Monster, and Andy asked Justin if he'd like to talk to his art mentor about drawing something like that himself. I had an idea.
I figured that if they went to Justin's art mentor, they wouldn't even know what to ask for. I also figured I couldn't teach Justin how to draw skyscrapers in two-point perspective in just a few minutes. But if I could sketch it out for Justin and Andy, and then if they took that sketch to Justin's art mentor, it might be something they could work on together and really master. So I took a piece of paper and drew a line down the middle of it, then put two dots on the line, then drew a bunch of lines radiating from those dots, then drew a box and drew some windows on it and said, "That's exactly how I made those drawings, and you can, too."
Justin leaned in real close, gave me a warm, firm, two-handed handshake, and said, "You're the best artist on Earth."
I didn't argue the point.
Here's some pictures.
|An overview of about half the Artists' Alley room, which was the heart of LumaCon. There were several vendors set up out in the lobby, and different activity rooms scattered around the Petaluma Community Center.|
|Andrew Farago, Shaenon Garrity, and Robin the Boy Wonder.|
|Emily C. Martin|
|One of my favorite art stylists, Tom Beland|
|Alchemia, with Justin and Andy|
|Separate rooms were dedicated to playing with Legos as well as just sitting and drawing. I love that.|
|A stage in the Artists' Alley room was set up for crafts. This was very early in the day, they were swarmed later.|
|Kids outside lopped off each other's limbs with deadly swords. I'm surprised it didn't make the news.|
|I believe this brave young Jedi single-handedly captured an Empire outpost.|
Like I said in my last post, LumaCon is just about the sincerest little con I know. They promise to keep having them, so if you're in the neighborhood next year I recommend it. Chances are good I'll be there, too.