For comic book fans who bemoan the encroaching influence of Hollywood on the major comic cons, there are a number of small, local events that carry on the spirit of the original comic book conventions.
This past Saturday, Locust Moon Comics, a Philadelphia-based comic book retailer, hosted the second annual Locust Moon Comics Fest. The event’s focus was squarely on comic books and related art. No costumed characters were in evidence, much less representatives from movie or television studios. The vendor tables typically displayed the exhibitors’ own works rather than boxes of back issues of popular comics or superhero action figures.
Like last-year’s inaugural event, the convention was held in the Rotunda, a century-old former house of worship now owned by the University of Pennsylvania. Last year’s show was contained in the small theater at the rear of the building. This year, exhibitors’ tables filled both the theater and the larger sanctuary, roughly tripling the area of the show floor.
In addition, this year’s Fest included five panel sessions held in Locust Moon’s retail space. These sessions covered topics ranging from the legacy of legendary artist Jack Kirby to the influence of underground comics.
Comic book creators at this year’s Fest included writer, artist, and comics historian Jim Steranko; artist Chrissie Zullo; letterer and calligrapher Todd Klein; artist J.G. Jones; and many others. Steranko, noted for his innovative work on Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the late 1960s, sat at a long table in front of a gallery of his original paintings as a line of fans waited to get his autograph or hear stories of his life and work.
While this year’s larger venue featured more exhibitors than in last year’s cramped quarters, some vendors remarked that the expansion in floor space didn’t appear to be matched by a proportional increase in attendance. Festival organizer Andrew Carl estimated that the event attracted roughly 500 attendees last year and around 1000 this year. Of course, the first few San Diego Comic Cons only attracted a few hundred attendees, and that event is now the largest popular culture event in the U.S. with an attendance of more than 130,000. It will be interesting to see how the Locust Moon Comics Festival evolves in the next few years.
For photos from the event, see my Flickr set: Locust Moon Comics Festival 2013.