Leah LaFera has no mystic hammer, no magic lasso, no star-spangled shield. She’s also missing spider strength, a sonic scream and a green power ring.
But she does have the power of the Electric City, and hopes to attract bunches of comic book fans on Saturday.
LaFera, an adult services librarian at the Schenectady County Public Library, is organizing the library’s first “Electric City Comic Con,” which will celebrate artists and their creativity. The conference will kick off the library’s “Every Hero Has a Story” summer reading program.
Electric City Comic Con
WHEN: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, July 11
WHERE: Schenectady County Public Library, 99 Clinton St., Schenectady
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: 388-4500, www.scpl.org
Comic cons are big deals for people who read comic books and graphic novels. LaFera said the library will accommodate several different tastes.
Q: What’s the Schenectady con going to be like?
A: We have a couple of components to it. We have a full day of scheduled programs and events, workshops. We also have about a dozen regional comic book illustrators and writers who are going to be hanging out all day selling prints, selling their work and signing autographs, really talking to kids, adults and sharing with them what they do with their love of comics.
Q: Are there are a lot of local comic book illustrators?
A: There really are. Out of the dozen, we have only two who are actually from New York City. The rest are from within a 30-, 40-mile radius.
Q: Can you drop any names?
A: I can. Our big name we’re getting from New York City is an illustrator named Chris Giarrusso and he’s the illustrator of a very popular four-part graphic novel called “G-Man,” about a kid super hero. He also illustrates “Mini Marvels,” which takes Marvel Comics characters and actually makes them children.
We have a nice blend of indie comics, which are people who self-publish, and their work has independent characters and not superheroes. We also have illustrators like Richard Bonk, who is from Schenectady; he has illustrated “Teen Titans” and “Witch Blade.” And Bill Anderson of Albany, who has worked on numerous Marvel and DC Image comic books from “X-Men” to “Spider-Man” to “Silver Surfer.”
Q: We’ve heard about the big comic cons in New York City and Los Angeles. Why are they such big deals?
A: I think they’ve grown in popularity, and they’re a lot different than they used to be, for sure. You’ve got movie stars going to them, they’re these pop culture cons where it’s really all media, not necessarily just comic books. Ours is the same weekend as the San Diego Comic Con and we did that on purpose because people are kind of in that mindset — you’re hearing about it on the news and then we have our own little one, but we’re really focusing on the medium of comic books at ours. We’re not really delving into the pop culture aspect.
Q: How did the Schenectady con develop?
A: It came to be from a panel that was held at the New York City Comic Con, where a group of librarians and illustrators have this really amazing convention in Ann Arbor, Michigan, called “Kids Read Comics.” They were doing a panel on how a library can do their own comic convention. We heard about it and it seemed like something feasible we could do; it seemed really interesting.
Several people on our staff read comics and are really interested in that form, so we decided to go ahead and explore the possibility and actually got in touch with the convention. They’ve really been helpful in helping us shape our event and how to gear it to not just adults but families, especially children.
Q: Are you a comics fan yourself?
A: Yes, I am. I have a few of my favorites I could suggest. I am not a big superhero fan, I tend to read more graphic memoirs. One book I read recently was “Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosh, and it actually started out as a web comic that she printed a couple years ago and it’s basically these vignettes from her life that she illustrates.
Another one I really love, it’s an older one called “Black Hole” and the author is Charles Burns. It’s a really beautifully illustrated black-and-white graphic novel about a sexually transmitted disease that turns teenagers into mutants.
Q: Will people who like the superhero genre get their fair share at the con?
A: We have a few DC and Marvel illustrators coming, we also have a 1 o’clock cosplay costume contest. So for people who go to conventions pretty regularly, cosplayers, they’ll be able to come and show off their costumes and we’ll have some prizes for winners, we’ll have a juvenile and adult category. They spend a lot of time, they craft everything themselves, it’s going to be exciting for all ages. Non-traditional comic book convention goers that are more library users will be able to see this whole sub-culture that exists.
Q: The con has its own superhero, right?
A: We do. Her name is “Voltage,” and she was created by one of our artists who is going to be coming, Shane Moore from Scotia. We wanted an icon for the convention, a character that would really sort of epitomize what our library does. So she’s electric because we’re in the Electric City and she draws her power from electricity. And of course, all the knowledge and know-how she gets from the library and from reading.
Q: In the old days, comic books and libraries did not mix. That’s changed, hasn’t it?
A: It’s not just libraries, it’s parents who also now understand the value of reading comic books and graphic novels. Attitudes have changed, the way we read is very different from the way we read even 10 years ago with the Internet and smart phones.
Q: What kind of audience do you think you’ll attract?
A: There are two different audiences that we’re planning on blending together. That’s people who are traditional comic convention goers, maybe they go to ones in the area, maybe they’ve gone to some in the past, maybe they’re just avid comic book readers.
But we’re also interested in attracting families and traditional library users, folks who come into our summer programs. We’re really trying to go after all ages; we would especially love to see parents, even if they haven’t read comics in years, to bring their kids to be able to expose them to that.
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