Lafayette's ComicFest 2016, an event with the superpower to appeal
By Lou Fancher
A line of people that snaked out the door and around the exterior of the Lafayette Library's Community Hall brought an ear-to-ear grin to the face of Teen Services Library Assistant Patrick Brogan.
"When I saw that, I knew we had a winner," he said, looking more like a schoolboy who'd seen a rocket take off than a man in charge of a free, community event.
With the debut of the library's first ever mini comic book convention style ComicFest 2016, May 14 was Free Comic Book Day and the perfect way to launch the program. During three hours of festivities, more than 100 people received free comic books and participated in comics and manga workshops, crafts, light saber training, trivia competitions, cosplay, scavenger hunts and more.
Joe Field, owner of Flying Colors Comics in Concord and founder of Free Comic Book Day, played guest of honor. After a rousing "Happy Birthday To You" was sung to Field by everyone in attendance, he said he never expected Free Comic Book Day to become a worldwide phenomenon celebrated by 1.5 million people in 65 countries. Comic books, he said, "are a powerful medium for entertainment, education and enlightenment."
Later, Field admitted that the May 2001 column he wrote for "Comics and Games Retailer Magazine" that launched the free comics giveaway was written "just to meet a deadline." At age 60, he said that during his lifetime he's seen comic books go from "sort of taboo stories told panel-to-panel" to "mainstream storytelling in all media." From a business standpoint, comic books since 2001 have had their longest period of sustained growth, Field said. "Of course, if they weren't any good, they wouldn't be the genesis for television shows, advertising, entertainment and films that we see today," he said.Adults like Field and Brogan point to comic book's diversity that makes room for traditionalists, newcomers, underground artists and fans, ethnicity- or topic-specific readers and other all-age groups to explain the genre's popularity. But kids at ComicFest said it's superheroes and action that draws them in.
"I like 'Supergirl,'" said 5-year-old Sasha Olojede, without specifying whether she meant the star of the action-adventure drama television series launched last year on CBS or another, perhaps made-up character. "She can fly. If I was Supergirl, I'd save people from bad guys, but right now I'm busy," she said, adding bold strokes of color to a superhero drawing she was completing.
Eight-year-old Evan Rohrbough of Lafayette posed for a picture with a green screen projected image of his favorite superhero, Superman. "I like him because he's super powerful and he fights crime. He can see through buildings. He can fly," he said. Asked if he himself possessed any super powers, Evan at first said he did not. Moments later, he changed his mind. "I know how to make my dad happy. If he tells me to go to bed and I do it, he'll be happy. If I give him some of my Halloween candy, he'll be super happy."
Brogan said the ComicFest will very likely return in the future. "There's something for every one here and we don't need to have big name authors or artists to attract a crowd. People still come. Obviously, superheroes are enough."