I spent most of yesterday at the sincerest little comics convention I know, LumaCon in Petaluma, Calif., a free event organized by librarians with the mission of encouraging a love of comics and, more broadly, literature and creativity, in kids. This was the tenth LumaCon. I've been to most of them, and will keep going as long as they'll have me.
I get a few things out of LumaCon. First, a chance to touch base with local comics pals like Alexis Fajardo, Tom Beland, Denis St. John, Mary Shyne, Gio Benedetti, Emily C. Martin, Andrew Farago, Shaenon K. Garrity, Donna Almendrala, and Maia Kobabe, some of whom I only see once or twice a year at things like this. Since we were all working there wasn't really time for deep conversations, but a quick "What's new with you?" is always nice.
|My table set up. Vaguely, the right half of the table is for selling books and the left half is for talking comics.
|An overview from one corner of the main room at the Petaluma Community Center, with many young artists showing and peddling their work in the foreground. I'm always impressed with their skill and enthusiasm.
|The main hall has a raised stage, which offered this craft area where kids could cut up stuff and glue together cardboard shields and such.
Mostly, it's a chance to connect with people, especially younger people, about making comics. Although I do sell my books (and actually sell better at LumaCon than any other venue), I'm mostly there to share what I know about cartooning with kids who want to absorb it. One of my favorite interactions yesterday was with a boy around 15 or 16 with whom I had a long conversation about storytelling, and the importance of being authentic and unique without worrying about what's hot or trendy (by the time you follow the trend, everyone will have moved on to something else). Tell stories that mean something to you and the right people will find them and love them. He really seemed to light up, which is the whole point of LumaCon for me. And he didn't buy a thing.
That and the family that bought THREE of my books in one shot! That hardly ever happens. That was cool, too.
I also got something out of sitting next to Maia Kobabe, author of the most-banned book in the U.S., "Gender Queer." Maia has taken an ungodly amount of heat from right-wing book burners, and every time we meet I check in to see how that's going. In my opinion, Maia has handled the attacks with poise and grace. Yesterday, I overheard more than a few teenagers tell Maia some variation of "I really needed your book. You showed me I wasn't alone. Your book saved my life." I asked if that happened like twenty times a day and Maia acknowledged that yes, it did, and that's what made all the vitriol endurable.
Comics aren't always important, but they CAN be. That's one thing I love about them.
Lots of youthful energy and creativity. Fun and play. Arts and crafts. Everybody there for the right reason. My daughters Robin and Laura there most of the day helping me with my table. Nothing but positive sincerity as far as the eye could see. Plus a bake sale! What more could a comics convention be? Thanks for having me, LumaCon. I hope to see you next year.
|To my right sat my friend Lex Fajardo, creator of the "Kid Beowulf" series and editor at the Charles Schulz Studio. I think he's drawing a sketch for a fan.
|Another Schulz Studio staffer, Denis St. John, makes dinosaur and horror comics on his own time.
|From right: Cartoon Art Museum curator Andrew Farago, cartoonist Shaenon Garrity, and their son Robin, who has been to so many conventions he's totally jaded, which I find delightful.
|Cartoonist Tom Beland, one of my favorite stylists, said he has new work coming out soon, so look for it.
|Maia Kobabe was busy all day. I was lucky to get this shot unobstructed by fans.
|These evil-doers were also there, but didn't cause any trouble.
|Some furry folk outside in front of the bookmobile, which did brisk business. After all, the whole convention was put on by librarians.