They are not quite ready to compete with Comic-Con International, that event draws tens of thousands of comic book and superhero fans to San Diego every year.
Yet for the fans who turned out Saturday to the City of Commerce’s first-ever comic book convention, the Comic Book Invasion was just as much fun.
“My favorite character is Captain America,” ten-year-old Alondra Marcelo excitedly told EGP, her face painted with the superhero’s iconic mask.
Lea este artículo en Español: La Invasión de Libros de Cómics Fue un Éxito en Commerce
The Commerce Public Library hosted the free event held at Rosewood Library, City Council Chambers and the Senior Center; each within easy walking distance of the other Civic Center venues.
Comic Book Invasion is the brainchild of Commerce’s Teen Librarian Erick Jackiw, himself a big fan of the Star Wars comic book series.
Jackiw has attended several comic conventions and told EGP he wanted Commerce residents to share in the experience, even if at a smaller scale.
Comic books are very popular with teenagers who visit the library, he explained. From Star Wars to Marvel superheroes and other selections, teens check them out “all the time,” Jackiw said.
Saturday’s mini-con attracted about 300 people from Commerce and surrounding communities, according to Jackiw. They listened to presentations from professionals in the field, some of them locals who have made it to the big leagues in the comic book and animation industry. Excited participants of all ages took pictures and got the autographs of artists, authors and popular characters from the comic book world. There were superhero drawing lessons and “cosplay,” dressing up as a favorite comic book character.
All the presenters donated their time to teach and demonstrate their craft.
Javier Hernandez, a cartoonist and instructor from Whittier, told EGP he’s been creating comic books since 1998. His main character is “El Muerto,” whose storyline features elements from Mexican and Chicano folklore.
“I think I’m selfish, I like to tell my [life]stories,” he said. “Then I make them into comics and sell them.”
From writing the script to doing the illustrations, Hernandez said some comic books can take a year to complete.
Fellow comic creator, Bell Gardens native Rafael Navarro, was teaching people who visited his booth Saturday the art of drawing sketches in a fast and entertaining way.
“There was a rumor that they wanted to do something about comic books in Commerce,” he said. Than “[library director]Beatriz Sarmiento invited me” to show my work, Navarro told EGP.
Navarro currently works as an animation storyboard artist for several major studios. His work has earned him an Emmy, the highest honor in the television industry.
It’s good to be back at the library he frequented as a teenager, he said Saturday,
“I would take the bus to get here, or I would go to the Bell Gardens Library,” he recalled.
“No matter where you go in life, no matter what success, wherever life leads you, never forget who you are and where you came from,” Navarro told EGP.
In the library’s children section, little ones were hard at work throughout the day cutting and painting masks representing their favorite characters: Batman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman and Superman. In the blink of an eye, they were transformed into superheroes.
Luis Escobar is a storyboard animator on Fox’s popular show, The Simpsons. He said he was very excited when Hernandez told him about Comic Book Invasion.
“There needs to be more of these things locally,” he said. “It encourages the artistic community to come and do positive things for the kids,” he said.
Comics are not only for children, but for people of all ages, Escobar emphasized. It’s exciting to see work by a variety of artists represented, not just the usual big names that get most of the attention, he said approvingly.
“Libraries like this one are good” places to find comic books, he added, explaining they tend to collect comic book with a variety of styles and themes.
The first step to becoming a comic book fan is choosing a topic, Hernandez said. If you get stuck, the library is a good place to start.
“There’s comic books from the civil rights movement, history, superheroes, ninjas, dinosaurs, you choose … Just ask your local librarian,” he said.
The daylong convention took over six months to plan. Participants called it a great success and said the hard work of city staff and volunteers showed.
Sulma Pelayo said she heard about comic book show at the library and thought it would be fun to her her daughters and nephews and nieces. She said she hopes the city brings more of these types of community events to Commerce.
“We’re very lucky in this city to do stuff like this,” said ten-year-old Grace Baltierra as she worked on her mask.
Navarro advises anyone interested in creating a comic book, or any kind of book, to not be afraid “to step outside the box.” If you need help, he suggests you ask your local librarian.
It’s a strategy Navarro says he knows first hand is worth pursuing.
“I would go to the Bell Gardens Library and request books about punk-rock or from the civil rights movements” to get ideas, he said.
“Just don’t be shy. Go to your local library.”