The phrase “comic-book convention” generally inspires negative images similar to the sentiment once expressed by Henry Rollins: “a bunch of dudes that never got laid in high school.” Any time an entertainment news show, or the news in general, feature a convention, they always seem to play up the angle that it’s just a bunch of freaks dressed in tights running loose through the streets of San Diego.
That’s not to say that both of those vivid descriptions aren’t at least somewhat accurate, but that’s not all a convention has to offer. On Nov. 10, the City Library hosts its first Comic Convention & Exhibit to showcase what the real thing should look like—before it’s taken over by Hollywood.
Mimi Cruz, owner of Night Flight Comics for more than 20 years, has been working hard to put all the pieces together and get back to the roots of what makes comics so unique. “One thing we take for granted,” Cruz says, “is that there are so many great stories coming out each and every week, and a lot of times, they cost less than a greeting card.”
With panels, creators, exhibits and big names from DC Comics, Salt Lake City’s own convention promises a little something for everyone—including, perhaps surprisingly, schoolteachers. “What we’re really trying to do is promote literacy and show creative ways to educate younger students,” Cruz says. “The best way for us to do that is to reach out within our own community.”
It’s a project Cruz has been involved with for almost 10 years, and she never misses a chance to use comics as an educational tool. “That’s our evil plan,” Cruz says. “But we wanted to do something for everyone, so we brought in a few ringers.”
Cartoonist Bill Morrison and writer Bill Willingham are two of the convention’s “secret weapons.” Morrison has worked on numerous projects, including some input on every Bongo Comic (the company that publishes The Simpsons comic) ever created as well as the art-direction job on Fox’s Futurama and an animator for Disney. “There’s going to be a lot of Simpsons art that you’d never see anywhere else,” Cruz says. “These are things from his personal collection.”
Willingham will also be on hand reading stories from his Eisner award-winning series Fables, which Cruz promises will be one of the highlights of the day. And both creators will participate in a “one-hour comic strip” creative workshop.
A slew of local artists will also be in attendance to show just what goes into drawing a page for a big-time comic book. Bountiful native Ryan Ottley will show off his Invincible chops, while Derek Hunter will give some insight as to how a page of his book Pirate Club is created. Eisner Awards administrator Jackie Estrada also will be on hand to provide a historical overview of comic books and graphic novels. Since most of the good ideas that American culture embraces are stolen from other countries, it’ll be nice to hear how comic books are an original American creation. Estrada also leads a presentation on the best graphic novels and how they contribute to the literary world. “It’s really insightful and actually pretty funny,” Cruz says.
The Library Comic Convention & Exhibit won’t be anything like the star-studded juggernauts that San Diego, Chicago or New York have become—at least not for a while—but every event has to start somewhere. The focus of this convention is on comics and comics alone. There won’t be any Hollywood big shots cramming the floor with monstrous displays or half-naked women selling video games. It’s all about the joy of comics and the escapist fun these creators bring to the world. “People have no idea how fun this is going to be,” Cruz says. “I’m beside myself waiting for it.”
CITY LIBRARY COMIC CONVENTION & EXHIBIT @ Main Library, 210 E. 400 South, Saturday Nov. 10., 10 a.m.-4 p.m., 524-8200