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“It was clear that we were outgrowing our space,” explained James Curtis, marketing manager at McLaren Greater Lansing and an organizer of the convention. “And we wanted a more central location.”
This year’s convention includes over 80 artists and exhibitors, ranging from independent artists to video game designers to local cosplay groups. Cosplay — short for costume play, where attendees dress up as fictional characters — is a popular feature at most comic conventions, and this weekend’s convention includes a cosplay competition with a $100 first prize. But, Curtis said, the centerpiece of the event is comic book culture.
“We wanted to focus on four things — the four Cs,” he said. “Comics, collectibles, creators and community.”
Relatively new to the comic convention community is Lisa Naffziger, a cartoonist and illustrator who will be exhibiting at this weekend’s convention.
“I’ve only done a few conventions so far,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot from the last two conventions — how to set up a table and how to display and sell art.”
An Illinois native, Naffziger, 24, studied sequential art (another name for comics and graphic novels) at Savannah College of Art in Design in Savannah, Ga. She moved to Lansing late last year when her husband landed a job at MSU. Naffziger publishes much of her work online, including a webcomic, “Petrichor,” where she posts a new page every Tuesday. Conventions represent an opportunity to meet readers in real life.
“I really like meeting people who are familiar with my work online,” she said.
Naffziger recently signed a deal with Iron Circus Comics to write a 200-page graphic novel. “Minus,” slated for release in 2018, is an adult crime/mystery novel that follows a sheltered, home-schooled girl whose life is upended when she encounters a gas station shootout.
“I’m about 25 pages into it,” she said. “I pitched a 150-page book, but when I mapped it out, there were a lot of things I needed to include. I’m hoping to pare it down a little for my publisher’s sake.”
For young artists like Naffziger, comic conventions are also an opportunity to network with established artists.
“It’s wonderful that you can talk to basically anyone,” she said. “You can talk with artists you really admire about their work.”
And there are some big names at this convention. The slate of special guests includes Marvel Comics artist Ryan Stegman and independent comic artist Jason Howard.
“We’re really excited to have Ryan on board,” Curtis said. “He’s worked on virtually every important Marvel franchise.”
Ryan Claytor, another featured guest at this weekend’s convention, has been teaching classes on comics and visual narratives at MSU since 2009. The university recently approved his proposal for a cross-disciplinary minor in animation and comics storytelling, which is available to students this fall.
“I’m looking forward to chatting about my work,” Claytor said. “I’m a process junkie. I love when other creators give a breakdown of how they work.”
Claytor is a comic convention veteran — he recently participated in his 12th San Diego Comic Con — and he finds that meeting independent artists is the most interesting part.
“I’m most excited about creators making their own work,” he said. “That’s where you find some unique voices.”
“There are so many independent publishers out there,” Curtis added. “I think that the things they’re doing are pushing the major publishers to take risks.”
Adam Bray, another featured guest, started his career as a freelance travel writer/journalist. He lived in southeast Asia for seven years, exploring Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and New Zealand. One of the publishers he worked with at the time was DK Books, which also publishes popular science fiction and comic book reference books.
“I always knew DK made these great ‘Star Wars’ books,” Bray recalled. “I had an idea that if I wanted to move back to the U.S., maybe I could write for those.”
Bray, 40, came back to the states about 4 years ago, just as DK was looking for another writer to contribute to its “Star Wars” books. He has written or contributed to six books, including “Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need To Know.” His most recent work, the similarly titled “Marvel: Absolutely Everything You Need To Know,” brings him closer to the proper comic book universe.
“It’s a fact and trivia book on all the characters, events and artifacts in the Marvel universe,” Bray explained. “With Marvel, you have 75 years of comics. It’s a tremendous amount of information.”
Also pulling inspiration from the Marvel universe is Ryan Holmes. The local chalk artist will be drawing a “life-size” Hulk in MSU Spartan gear on the sidewalks outside the Breslin Center.
“I’ll be adding to the chaos,” Holmes joked, referencing the construction currently surrounding the basketball arena.
To prepare for Saturday’s event, Holmes has been making sketches on paper to perfect the design.
“I’ll do 20 or 30 sketches a day,” he said. “I see how fast I can do them. I should be able to do the outline in 10 or 15 minutes. Then it’s all coloring and shading.”
Holmes, 33, a special education professional for Waverly School District, can be found most Friday nights making chalk drawings on the walls at Lansing’s Tin Can bar. Recent works include “Ghostbusters” characters and a tribute to the late musician Prince.
“I do things that are culturally relevant,” he said. “The people who follow my art have a chance to see me do it live. It’s become performance art.”
Capital City Comic Con
10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27 $12/$10 adv./children 5 and under FREE Breslin Student Events Center 534 Birch Road, East Lansing capcitycomiccon.com